A new partnership between McLennan Community College and a Texas nonprofit organization is helping residents become financially stable by offering free certified nursing assistant courses twice a year.
Last week, the college and Skillpoint Alliance started a free four-week course for people trying to get a leg up in their careers but who don’t have the means to do so on their own. The program targets youth ages 16 to 24.
Skillpoint Alliance, which started offering services in Waco two years ago, focuses on skills-based education and training to connect individuals to businesses within the community. The new class directly ties to the collaborative effort by Prosper Waco, another nonprofit group, to bridge education, health care and financial gaps in the city, Spillpoint’s Waco program director, Mallory Herridge, said.
“It’s really exciting to be able to tell the students you’re not only getting your CNA certification at a rapid pace but you’re going to have MCC on your transcript and essentially you’ll be a graduate of the continuing education program of MCC,” Herridge said.
Students are chosen through an interview process to make sure requirements are met for both MCC and Skillpoint, she said. The class uses MCC instructors and materials but is held at the nonprofit agency’s office, 817 Colcord St., Building 3, where students can also participate in employment workshops as they work through the course.
The nonprofit group wants to increase employment of Waco residents age 16 to 24 by 900 individuals, increase the median income of full-time workers by at least 10 percent, and decrease by 10 percent the number of residents who are 50 percent below the federal poverty line, she said.
It is also focused on doubling the percentage of economically disadvantaged students who complete a workforce certificate or degree, and the CNA course is a steppingstone to what Skillpoint Alliance students can take advantage of, Herridge said. The organization offers several courses outside the MCC partnership, she said.
The city had more than 130,000 residents, and 27 percent were below the federal poverty line as of 2015, according to Prosper Waco’s website. And more than 80 percent of Waco ISD’s 15,000 students are economically disadvantaged.
The interest in the class is already high, Herridge said. Though there are only 15 spots open for each four-week course, Skillpoint Alliance had about 200 applicants for the ongoing session, she said.
Kim Babers, a mother of four adopted children, each with medical issues, said the class was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. She has been in the class a week, and it has already changed her career outlook, Babers said.
Three of her four children have severe asthma. Two have diabetes. One has seizures, and another has had major surgery, she said. In a way, her children have fueled her desire to eventually become a nurse who can help change the atmosphere during a trying situation, she said.
“I felt like in my first three years of getting them, I changed my address to 1935 Medical District Drive because I was at Children’s (Medical Center Dallas) so much,” Babers said. “I could tell you the doctors’ rotation, that’s how bad it was. … The teacher is motivated, very informative and very knowledgeable about the field. We’ve thrown questions at her that are not even class-related. She’s giving us life experiences, so this is an awesome program.”
The partnership is a natural fit, MCC continuing education Dean Frank Graves said.
“From the financial standpoint, the students who may not have the resources to pay for the cost of the course and then who are really wanting to take advantage of it, this creates an opportunity for both to happen,” Graves said.