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Goodwill honors Nikki Cunningham U.S. Air Force Veteran and Goodwill Success

Success Story - Nikki Cunningham VeteranAdaptive. Determined. Independent. Nikki possesses all three attributes. And all three she says she learned while serving in the United States Air Force.

Nikki was 23 when she enlisted in the Air Force. She had a little college and work experience under her belt, but it was her time in the military that taught her the importance of being adaptive in life. “You have to learn to communicate and work with everyone,” she said. “It’s no longer about what you want; it’s about the common goal to serve and protect.” It’s essential to look beyond race, religion, personal differences and just get the job done. Adapt by moving through what’s difficult. There’s no avoiding it.

“The pandemic taught us that we’re all a layoff or let go away [from our plans],” she said. Flexibility, willingness to try new things, always learning and being prepared for what’s next — each of these adaptive qualities served Nikki well in her professional journey outside the military.

2020 was a trying year for many, but it seemed to come in spades for Nikki, when she lost three loved ones during the pandemic. Coming off a year of medical issues herself, and caring for her mother, life stacked on hardships that could’ve been barriers to Nikki’s professional outlook. She credits her determination or “I can do this” attitude to the self-discipline that was ingrained in her during service.

My first civilian job after military service was at Lockheed-Martin, where I scheduled pilots for flight, simulators and academics. It was a progression of what I did in the Air Force, scheduling aircraft for maintenance. My administrative and organizational skills served me well. I didn’t expect being let go in April 2020 and what was to follow — not only in the world, but for me personally. Even before COVID took hold of everything, I was battling my own challenges. My lease ended in August 2020, and I was unemployed, so. I packed up and moved from Arizona to Colorado. I was battling my own health challenges, became very ill and needed surgery, which caused me to relocate to Georgia, so my mom could take care of me. Then my mom got injured and sick. It was my turn to be her caregiver. Still unemployed, I reached out to a veteran’s group that connected me to Goodwill of Middle Georgia, and that’s when my return to independence began. I enrolled in an Administrative and Office Support certification course where I met Bernadette Fortune, someone who would be instrumental in the opportunities that followed. My life has been a series of blessings and divine appointments. Goodwill was one of the best. Not sure where I’d be without the skills and ability to connect with others that Goodwill provided me.

“Both Goodwill and the military level the playing field for anyone who is willing to try new things,” Nikki said. “Both teach you that you’re not just where you are right now; they show you where you can go, that you need to be at your best at whatever career path you choose.”


About Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia

Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia, Inc., a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charity, builds lives, families and communities one career at a time by helping people develop their God-given gifts through education, work and career services. More than 86 cents of every dollar of Goodwill revenue underwrites job training and placement services within the agency’s 35-county service delivery area. Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia, Inc. is accountable to a local Board of Directors, belongs to this community and is not owned by any individual or company.