Growing up in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, Vickie Custodio was instilled with a strong work ethic. “I did a lot of community activist work,” she remembers about her childhood. “My mother used to run a women’s shelter there [in Uptown], too.”

So, when Vickie completed high school, she naturally carried that sense of motivation and determination with her. She knew she wanted to continue her education and looked no further than her closest City College, Harry S. Truman College. Truman was just a few blocks away from home, so attending the campus “just made sense,” according to Vickie.

Vickie jumped into classes focused on business management, however, before earning her associate degree, she put her studies on hold and instead joined the workforce full-time. Working in retail management, she earned a great salary, and, for the next several years, her everyday life was consumed by her career and family. Then, in December 2019, Vickie lost her job and everything changed. She didn’t, however, lose her drive. Vickie’s first thought was: “I should go back to school!”

With some encouragement from a friend, Vickie attended the City of Chicago’s Cannabis Resource Fair, where she met a representative from Olive-Harvey College who mentioned the school’s certificate in Cannabis Dispensary Operations. Vickie was intrigued. Additionally, through Project Evolve—a scholarship program designed to support Chicago’s African-American and Hispanic populations, as well as those who are unemployed or underemployed—she would even be able to earn the certificate for free.

Vickie enrolled in the Intro to Cannabis Operations course at Olive-Harvey, quickly realizing the possibilities presented by the program and a future career in the industry. Because of her years of management experience, she was confident the profession would translate well.

Now, a few months after Vickie received her certificate, it’s clear she was right. In September 2020, she was hired to serve as the General Manager at Rise, a cannabis dispensary chain, at one of the company’s storefronts in Naperville.

Through it all, Vickie credits Project Evolve for giving her the opportunity to further her education and for setting her up for success. Her advice for incoming students is simple: “Apply yourself and figure out what it is you really want to do. City Colleges’ programs prepare students for what’s next.”

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