OUR LEARNER SPOTLIGHT: Briana Graham, 37, BeLit Learner & Pre-Apprentice

While March is a month that honors trailblazing accomplishments of women, BeLit learner Briana Graham embodies women empowerment all year long. Growing up in North Philadelphia with her mother and grandmother, Briana was an engaged student in her academic classes. However, while she was in 8th grade, she fell in with the wrong crowd and stopped attending school.

Striving to support herself through a variety of different jobs, Briana’s creativity and enthusiasm made her stand out to employers, even without her diploma. After volunteering at a local charter elementary school, she was offered a Therapeutic Staff Support (TSS) worker position, later transitioning to the Front Desk Receptionist position. She was disappointed when the school eventually began requiring employees to have their High School Diploma, and she was let go.

Determined to earn her high school equivalency credential, Briana joined Beyond Literacy in October of 2021. Since starting our pre-GED classes, Briana has wasted no time reaching her goals. In February, she passed the Reading Language Arts test and is preparing for her Social Studies exam now. She joined a peer study group which meets on weekends to encourage and support each other. In class, her commitment and positive attitude led her teacher, Mr. Hall to remark, “Briana’s tenacity and willingness to work with others is inspiring. She is a natural leader who puts in effort that inspires others to stay active.”

In addition to working towards her GED, Briana was also accepted into our Keystone Energy Employment Pipeline (KEEP) program, where she is currently one of two women in her cohort. This unique pre-apprenticeship program prepares adult learners with paid work experience, classroom instruction, and portable, nationally recognized credentials that help jumpstart careers with Pennsylvania’s largest green energy and utilities providers. 

“When I found out that it was a male-dominated field, it made me want to pursue it even more. I love competition,” Briana said. She and her fellow female classmate, Janay, encourage other women not to be intimidated when considering a career in construction. Briana is happy when she sees women wearing tool belts and hard hats. “If a man can climb a 50-foot pole, we can climb it too,” she said.

As a single mother of five, Briana is determined to reach her three big goals for 2022: earning her high school equivalency credential; applying for college to pursue a business degree while working in the construction field; and improving her credit score, so she can purchase a house. Briana explains that, as a Muslim woman, it is common to let men be the providers; but she is committed to being her own knight in shining armor while setting a powerful example to her children, especially her three young daughters. “Women can have our own armor. We are strong. If we can bear children, we can build a house.”

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