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Spertus Graduate Creates Sweet Buzz

Spertus Graduate Creates Sweet Buzz

By Lori M. Finkel for Spertus Institute

“Photograph from Inc. Magazine

Brenda Palms-BarberBrenda Palms-Barber’s work is making ripples around the country as a prime example of green job creation for those in need of a new start.

A graduate of the Spertus Masters of Science in Nonprofit Management program, Brenda serves as executive director for Sweet Beginnings, an innovative jobs program run by the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN). The program offers transitional jobs for formerly incarcerated individuals through the production of a skin care line called Beeline. Lotions, lip balms, and skin care products are made with raw honey from its urban apiary in North Lawndale.

Recently, the bi-partisan committee on Social Innovation and Philanthropy — chaired by Senator Joe Lieberman and Representative Eric Canter — asked Brenda to speak at their conference in Washington DC. She illustrated how Sweet Beginnings provides job training for workers who care for bees and hives, harvest honey, produce and package products, fill orders, track inventory, and sell at retail outlets and special events. The recidivism rate for former Sweet Beginnings employees is below 4%, compared to an average of 55% in Illinois and 65% nationally.  

Under Brenda’s leadership, NLEN has received a number of awards, including a MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions and a Shore Bank Community Impact Award.

See how you can join students like Brenda >

Monday, April 2, 2012