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Health Profession Opportunity
Grant (HPOG) Success Stories
The mantra, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” seems to be very fitting in the life of Christina Daly; although a few more “try’s” might need to be applied. The mother of five young children had always dreamed about working in the medical field, yet limitations always seemed to hold her back. Unemployed and while trying to land a job, a worker at the Schenectady County Job Training Agency (SJTA) shared information about the HPOG program with her and directed her to the Schenectady Community Action Program (SCAP); a partner with SCCC’s HPOG program. Christina knew this would be her way to make her dream a reality. Early on, however, obstacles began to come. During her career-readiness training both she and her children became ill and she had to leave the program to take care of her family. Determined, Ms. Daly returned and thanks to her case manager, David at SCAP, she was readmitted to the program and made it through the first step. Christina’s care for others and putting those in need before her is evident in her life and fittingly, upon being selected to enter the upcoming CNA training course, she gave up her position to Jill, a younger student who had a more imminent need of the spot. Finally, however, her time would come to enter CNA training herself.
The course started off great for Christina and she knew this was what she had wanted, yet life would throw her a difficult and painful curve ball. Unfortunately, the night before starting her second week in the program Christina and her children were forced to move out quickly, seek shelter away from her abusive husband and eventually press charges against him. Through the court appearances and meetings with social services, the county decided it was best for Christina and her children’s safety, for her to leave the program. Heartbroken and set back, her determination was unshakeable. “I knew someone had to take care of my family and no one else was going to do it besides me!” Through persistence and help from SCAP and HPOG staff along the way, Christina re-entered another CNA training cohort and continued her drive to bring stability to her family’s life. Working hard to get to her clinical rotations at Kingsway, a place she hoped to be her future employer, Christina excelled in patient care. Yet again though, the hurdles of life for Christina were unending. During one day at clinical rotations, her husband, in a drug relapse, tracked her down, calling Kingsway and again threatened her continuance in the program she loved. Nonetheless, Ms. Daly shared that she did not fear this instance would end her time in the program; she knew she would succeed. The only fear was that because she was visibly shaken and upset that this would make her appear to be unprofessional and unemployable. She became focused. As a newly single mother, Christina’s motivation was driven by her love for her family and the support she received from her HPOG CNA instructor, Ms. Margie. Christina shared that Ms. Margie with tears in her own eyes, encouraged her. “I admire you so much; for what you do and what you’ve accomplished.” She would not quit now. With support like this all throughout the program, Christina successfully finished her clinical rotation, passed her exams and is now a licensed CNA. With all the impediments in her way; raising 5 children on her own, getting up at 4 a.m. at times before putting in a full day of classes, and issues with domestic violence, Christina said, “Before this year started I made a list of goals for myself and I told myself I was going to achieve them. And, I did!” Today, Christina is employed in a personal, home health care job and is seeking more employment and eventually hopes to continue on to get her nursing degree. She now knows, with a new found confidence and history of succeeding through difficulties, she is well on her way to providing all she had hoped for for her family. “HPOG is a wonderful program. I’m so thankful for it. And I know if I can do it anyone can!”
He Is A Winner!Sam Darko's success story was recently voted HPOG success story of the year. Sam will be traveling to Washington DC to share his story at the annual HPOG conference.
Sam Darko’s hero, mentor and caretaker- his grandfather- used to always tell him, “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” And although struggle and the loss of loved ones were never part of the plan, they were not enough to keep Sam Darko from his goal and his wish: to find a good job in the same field that offered outstanding careers to his grandparents- the healthcare field.
Growing up in the Bronx as one of six children, Sam lost his parents at a young age. The tragedy of losing his father to violence and his mother to illness meant that Sam and his brothers and sisters would be raised by his grandparents. A blessing in disguise, Sam’s grandmother (a Registered Nurse) and his grandfather (a pharmacist) did a brilliant job of caring for the kids while showing them, by example, the value of working hard at a career that you love.
When Sam’s family moved upstate to Albany, it was a chance for him to develop a plan that would lead him to his goal- a career in healthcare. But he had a long road ahead of him and a lot to distract him. Having dropped out of school, Sam had to start with achieving his high school diploma- which he successfully did as the first step to following his plan. He then had to explore what road within healthcare he wanted to take so he took some college courses, completing the next step toward following his plan. In addition to exploring his career options, Sam had to continue to work so that he could support his family and make his contribution, an additional step toward following his plan. Through focus and commitment to a goal he wanted for a long time, Sam was disciplined enough to stick with the plan his grandfather helped him envision.
The next step would be a challenge- Sam’s decision to become a Certified Nurse Aide required specific training, and training required money. While exploring his options, a friend mentioned this free training program that was being offered in Sam’s community which helped people receive training and supported their employment goals in the healthcare field. It was clear to Sam that this was a great opportunity for him and the next step in his plan- it was the opportunity he had worked for. Sam attended orientation, intensive workshops, and meetings with the staff of Albany Community Action Partnership (ACAP), a community organization helping individuals become self-sufficient. “ACAP really felt like a huge support. They put a lot of time and work into me and it helped, it kept my head in it. They knew a lot that I didn’t know and needed to learn.” He was successful, he was on track, he was moving along with the plan. Sam was accepted into class and began his Certified Nurse Aide training program. He could go home every day and tell his grandfather that he was getting closer to his goal. “My grandparents always wanted more for me, when I went to college and then started this program- that was really big for them. They didn’t want me to end up like my father and they could see- I was doing it.”
But there were bumps along the way. There were unplanned hiccups and unwanted distractions that threatened Sam’s plan. “There was a lot happening outside of class that I tried not to bring in with me every day. I looked at it like a job and I was there for that purpose.” Including the loss of a brother, the fear of losing another brother to a violent lifestyle, the responsibility of caring for the health of two grandparents that took him in and raised him, and the constant pressure from friends and family to financially support them, Sam was working every day to stay focused and separate life from class. “It was a struggle- I had a lot of people and things pulling me in different directions but when I was here, I had to leave all that behind.”
Sam completed the class and after getting through all of the challenges he had faced, his nerves got the best of him during his clinical skills test and he did not pass. Sam was frustrated with the outcome but stayed committed to his plan, and upon being offered the opportunity to review and retake the test, he jumped at it. He wanted this grandfather to see that his would happen. After much review and a second chance at testing his clinical skills, Sam failed on one skill. “I wanted to quit, I didn’t care. I was so mad, I had practiced and I knew the stuff. What was I supposed to tell my Grandfather? Like, this was something I was supposed to finish and I didn’t. I just didn’t want to deal with it.”
Failing to pass the CNA test had taken its toll on Sam and had challenged his devotion to his plan. “I didn’t even want it anymore, I was so frustrated.” And the biggest challenge to Sam’s plan fell upon him shortly after the test-his grandfather passed away. “It was hard, I mean he didn’t get to see me do this. I got into this for him and my grandmother, and now he won’t see it.” The overwhelming situation of losing his grandfather and the frustration he had encountered from the previous tests would have been enough to deter Sam from ever completing his plan. But through the support of the staff at ACAP and the desire to be there for his grandmother in her loss, Sam decided he needed to finish. He had one last opportunity to take his clinical skills test. He would need to review and he would need to stay committed to learning many things he hadn’t practiced in a few weeks.
Even in the wake of losing his grandfather, facing the frustration of two failed attempts at testing, and now having been out of the classroom and formal training for a few weeks, Sam review, tested and passed his clinical skills test. He is now a Certified Nurse Aide, just like he had planned- and just like his grandfather knew he would be.
Before her participation in HPOG, Paula H. was a single mother, sleeping on a friend’s couch, and running late for everything. “I was always thinking, if my friend kicks me out, where do I go? Where do I take my daughter?”Now 24 years old, a Certified Nurse Aide working full time and living in her own apartment with her daughter and her boyfriend, she smiles when she talks about her job at The Eddy Village Green at Cohoes. “They don’t call us CNAs, I am referred to as a “shahbaz”, and we work on a self-managed team.”Her face lights up as she describes the innovative approach the nursing home takes to caring for their residents, and the unique story behind the title of shahbaz. “We are encouraged to engage more in the lives of the residents, much like family members. I love my job; it’s exactly what I want to be doing. I go to work with a smile on my face.”
While Paula has achieved her goal of being financially stable through a successful career in healthcare, the road to get there was anything but easy. “I found out about HPOG through a friend at the library. She told me there was this free training program and you could get your CNA. I was thinking I’d sign up and I’ll start right away.” But that didn’t happen for Paula, and the obstacles she had to overcome seemed insurmountable at first. “I didn’t realize the foot work I’d have to do to get into the program; I thought I’d be automatically in, so I didn’t take anything seriously, and I was late for everything.” Her tardiness earned her the nickname Pretty Late Paula by the staff at the Albany Community Action partnership (ACAP), and prevented her from obtaining a spot in the CNA training program. “I signed up for the CNA class in November, and I didn’t actually begin until May.” Paula made it a habit of showing up late for orientation, workshops, classes, etc. and making excuses for her tardiness. “It wasn’t until ACAP sat me down and said, ‘who are you to make excuses? That won’t work when you get a job, so we need to make a plan to get you here on time’ that I really got it.”
Paula worked with ACAP on getting childcare for her daughter so that she could commit to the class and be on time.; She started to realize that showing up and doing what you’ve set out to do was important for her and her daughter, and a major change started to happen. “People started to notice that I wasn’t only on time, but I was early. They finally just started calling me Pretty Paula!” After showing she was ready to be committed and focus on her goal, she began her CNA training class utilizing all of the supports she had and staying true to the idea of showing up on time and doing what is expected.“There were people there that actually wanted to help me, their job was to help me be successful, so I did my job and took that support and changed my life.”
Now she’s proud that she has her own place, and her daughter can see her go to work every day. “My daughter tells people her mommy is a nurse and that makes me feel really good. She sees me in my uniform and she sees me go to work and that shows her it’s important.Things are so different now.” As Paula recalls where she has come from and what she has been through, she is quick to point out what she has left to accomplish. “I got my learner’s permit through the help of ACAP and soon I will have my driver’s license. I love having my own place, and I definitely want to go back to school and become an RN. My entire family can see it, I’m just so happy now.”
Maurice Lindsey knows what he wants, he knows why he wants it, and he knows how to get there. “I wanted to get my CNA license to get my foot in the door in the healthcare field. But my goal is to continue on to become an LPN and then eventually an RN”. Maurice’s clarity on his professional goals stems from his experience growing up in a large family - 6 siblings in total. “I’ve always been involved in helping out with my siblings and taking care of them, and that has always been enjoyable for me. I knew I wanted to have that same feeling in my job.”
A recent graduate from Schenectady County Community College’s Health Profession Opportunity Grant program, Maurice has already found employment working as a CNA for a nursing home. Within 3 weeks of completing the training program and passing his state test, he had accomplished his first career goal of working as a CNA. And while Maurice is incredibly driven and headstrong (‘I don’t let anything get in my way’), he had much to overcome before he even began his class.
“I’ve always been a good student and done well in school, but I had some tough times in high school outside of the classroom and I had a lot to overcome.” As an African American, homosexual male who is HIV positive, Maurice certainly had a great deal of adversity he faced and encountered some stigmas he had to overcome. But prevailing through “the toughest year of his life,” including the loss of a sibling, meant learning a great deal about himself and about people in general. Maurice successfully graduated from high school, moved away from his family and took the next step toward building a career in healthcare.
“After I finished high school and moved here, I knew I wanted to begin my career by becoming a CNA, but I also knew I didn’t have the money to pay for a class. I was working at a local hospital as a Transportation Aide and I just looked around and said, ‘this is not what I came here for, I have to make a move’.” Maurice searched the internet for free CNA training programs in the area, assuming there probably weren’t any, and immediately came upon the website for Albany Community Action Program (otherwise known as ACAP). ACAP, a community organization that specializes in providing various social services to their community members to empower people to achieve economic self-sufficiency and an improved quality of life, has partnered with Schenectady County Community College to provide outreach, recruitment, case management and employment services to HPOG students. Maurice was ecstatic to read that ACAP was recruiting for a high quality CNA program in his community that was entirely free. “I almost didn’t make it in! I showed up late to my first day of orientation, but they could see I was out of breath from running to make it on time, and I really wanted a shot at this opportunity, so they let me stay.”
Maurice was never late again, and through intense workshops, high quality and caring instructors, and extremely supportive employment specialists, Maurice took full advantage of the wrap-around services the program had to offer. “My class was like a family; we grew to be very close and they were very accepting of who I am. We still keep in touch and get together every month for dinner to see how everyone is doing. People bring their families, it’s great.”
To subsidize the standard curriculum, Maurice offered to his instructor an opportunity to speak with his classmates about his personal experiences growing up HIV positive and how that relates to the healthcare path they’ve chosen. The experience was unique for both Maurice and his classmates, and prompted some great discussions on the role of a patient and the role of a healthcare provider.
Maurice attributes much of his success in the class to his passionate instructor (“you can tell she loves what she does and she never let us give up”), his supportive classmates (“you spend so much time together, you really get to know and love each other like a family”), and the rigorous curriculum and program (“it’s really tough and you have to stay focused- during testing I just imagined that our proctor was our instructor and I had all the confidence in the world because she believed in us, so I knew I could do it”).
His immediate attainment of the exact kind of job he was looking for was made entirely possible by his employment specialist and supportive team at ACAP. “This program was like a blessing to me- it’s amazing that you guys help people to the extent that you do. I had support everywhere I turned. ACAP stayed with me the entire time, helped me make an amazing resume and before I even graduated I had interviews set up.”
Now that he’s a working CNA and doing what he loves, Maurice has given notice to his job as a Transportation Aide. “I love my job and I love my residents. When I go home at the end of the day, I know I mattered. He wears a very large tattoo on his back with one simple, but powerful, word- integrity. “I make sure I follow through on my responsibilities in a timely manner because people are counting on you, and that’s a great feeling. The program helped me get that.”
See scenes from our August 5, 2013 HPOG graduation on our Flickr Page.