08/22/2012 02:43 pm ET Updated Oct 22, 2012

Goodwill Helps the Next Generation Open Doors to Success

There is a new commercial running in the United States that shows a series of students opening their college acceptance letters. It's heartwarming to witness their anxiety turn to joy as they realize that the door has opened to the next chapter in their lives.

At Goodwill, we are privileged to witness such joyous reactions every day. Each time a person who thought they could never find work receives a job offer and the door to a better life opens, we rejoice.

It is important to have jobs in our society; not only do jobs provide our livelihood, they help ground us, give us purpose and provide us with a network through which we can build friendships and discover new opportunities. Often, our jobs define our sense of worth.

For too many Americans, though, the benefits of having jobs remain elusive. This is why we at Goodwill use a variety of tools when working with folks looking for their first or next jobs. Since every person is different -- with unique skills and talents -- we use a host of approaches to make that job offer dream a reality.

For example, a tool that Goodwill uses for youth with disabilities is a one-year work experience program during the final year of high school. This program, known as Project SEARCH, immerses students in business environments so they can learn through on-the-job experience and gain valuable technical and soft skills via multiple internships. From these internships come job offers and that accompanying sense of self-worth and fulfillment.

A prime example comes in the form of James Vander. During his senior year of high school in Washington, D.C., Vander, began to notice that opportunities were quickly passing him by. While he had the right personality, he was passed over for jobs because he did not have the educational and professional experience required.

Recognizing his desire for success, Vander's therapist suggested he apply for Project SEARCH, where he was accepted and excelled. "I learned to transfer my mind set from a high school student to a full-time employee," Vander explains.

Today he is an employee of the U.S. Department of Education and is committed to paying his joy forward. "I am trying to open doors for other people in the future."

Vander's mission is central to who we are and what we do at Goodwill. It should be central to who we are as a society -- because we all deserve an opportunity for the sense of dignity that comes with earning a living.