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Feb. 28, 2013

Helping homeless vets become butchers

A year ago, Robert Cunningham was out of work, enrolled in a rehabilitation center and looking for help.

He was battling a cocaine addiction.

“When I was doing drugs nothing else mattered,” Cunningham said. “I realized that I needed help.”

Help came in the form of Vets to Ag, a program offered by Michigan State University and the Veterans’ Services Division of the Michigan Workforce Development Agency.

The program aims to teach homeless veterans agriculture skills. Training includes: equipment operation, computer skills, integrated pest management, workplace safety, interview techniques and other valuable skills for employment.

A Detroit native, Cunningham, 52, is excited and hopeful for his future.

“People set their own limits,” Cunningham said. “The program is coming to an end, and I can see the possibilities. I’m learning job skills and building a foundation for my future.”

On March 1, Cunningham and 10 other Michigan veterans will graduate from the program, which is coordinated by MSU’s Institute of Agriculture Technology in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Because they learned the specifics of the meat packaging and processing business, a majority of the veterans will be offered jobs upon graduation as multiple meat packaging companies will be attending the ceremony.

By: Courtney Culey

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