Don’t be surprised if this face looks familiar to you. Leonard Freeny has brushed with fame from his experience as a background actor with stars like Martin Lawrence, Denzel Washington and Owen Wilson. This 27 year old worked in the entertainment industry in Atlanta for three years before growing weary of the constant hustle needed to land a job. “You have to sell yourself to the producers and prove to them why you are able to do the part,” Leonard said. For all the work that Leonard would put into auditioning for a role, success was hard to come by.
That’s when Leonard decided to move to Knoxville, where he could be near family and have better access to steady jobs. His first job in Knoxville was at a local assisted living community, where he served as a caregiver for disabled adults. At the time, it was just a job, Leonard reports. “It just kind of fell into my lap.”
Leonard quickly learned that he liked serving as a caregiver, and that he was good at it. When he heard that Goodwill offered scholarships for their Certified Nurse Assistant class, he signed up. “I’m always trying to find something out there that can help me move to the next level… Opportunity came and I just took it.”
Leonard was awarded a scholarship from the Robert G. Rosenbaum CNA Scholarship Fund; this fund was founded in 2014 to commemorate the 40 year career and accomplishments of former Goodwill Industries-Knoxville, Inc. President & CEO, Dr. Robert G. Rosenbaum.
The Goodwill CNA course is a challenging, 7-week class that is designed to prepare students for the State Certification Exam and to work as CNAs. They spend four weeks in a classroom setting at Goodwill, two weeks at local healthcare facilities for clinical experience and a final week reviewing for the state exams and preparing to apply for CNA positions. Leonard said that, though the class was fast-paced, he had plenty of support from his instructors and classmates.
“Being a CNA is definitely hard work,” Leonard said. “You’ve got to really love all your patients. You’ve got to have that want to help people and that’s something I’ve always liked.”
Leonard is now ambitiously working two jobs, including a full time position at UT Medical Center and a part time role at a nursing home. He made connections for both of these positions at the CNA career day, a tradition at the end of each Goodwill CNA class that allows students to create a resume and meet personally with hiring employers.
“This program has definitely changed my life. It put me in a better situation,” Leonard said. “Because of this program, I don’t have to worry about finding a good job. Before the program, I had to sell myself again – put my name on an application and tell the people at the interview why I’m the best for the job. Now that I’ve been through this program and I have my certificate, it’s much easier for me to do… I’m more confident about getting a job anywhere I go.”
“My dream is to do something that I love doing,” Leonard said. “I’m working my way up the ladder to make more money per hour to invest in doing something that I want to do… I want to have a family and a decent house to raise a family in, to teach my kids right from wrong and hopefully steer them in the right direction. That’s my overall goal, and I’m taking baby steps to get there.”