WOONSOCKET — Ten motivated Northern Rhode Island residents celebrated their recent completion of the Stepping Up Health Care Career Orientation Program at a graduation ceremony Wednesday at the Connec-ting for Children and Families’ (CCF) Chaplin-Perez Community Center.
On hand to salute the graduates were U.S. Senator Jack Reed and Matt Wojcik, Woonsocket’s director of Human Services and Economic Development, who represented Mayor Leo T. Fontaine.
Stepping Up is an innovative career ladders program that provides training, education, career coaching, and support services for entry-level health care workers and for Rhode Island residents. The graduates shared their inspirational stories and future aspirations at the ceremony, which marked the completion of three 12-week programs.
Kristin Reynolds from CCF states, “We started our Stepping Up classes in October. My own self-esteem and confidence started slowly improving as I have learned so much about the health care field, the jobs available, and first aid, and I had a lot of fun doing it. I now have the confidence to present a strong resume and have successful interviews. Classes flew by and our teachers were great.”
Terese Curtin, executive director of Connecting for Children & Families, said “We are so proud and pleased to be involved in this workforce development initiative. It’s exciting that four of our students have already gained full-time employment, and another has enrolled in classes at CCRI to further her education.”
The Stepping Up graduates attended seven weeks of health care career exploration classes at both Family Resources Community Action, and Connecting for Children and Families. The students then went on to complete five weeks of related internships at Mount St Rita Health Centre, Hebert Nursing Home, Homefront Health Care, and Landmark Medical Center. At these health care facilities, participants had the opportunity to learn about the working environment and demonstrate their skills and motivation to potential employers.
Of these January graduates, two have been hired in full-time administrative positions at Homefront; one student has been placed at Rhode Island Hospital in the food and Nutrition Department; one student is working in a residential facility; and another at Northern Rhode Island Community Services. The remaining students will continue to receive career counseling and job search assistance.
Nancy Paradee, deputy executive director of Family Resources Community Action, said, "The Stepping Up program provides clients an opportunity to learn new skills that ultimately change their lives.”
Since its launch in September 2007, Stepping Up has provided neighborhood pipeline residents with 191 internships. Seventy percent of Stepping Up graduates are employed within six months of graduation. In partnership with CCRI, Stepping Up has also assisted 327 entry-level incumbent health care employees to continue their professional growth by attending CCRI courses in pursuit of challenging and meaningful work in high growth, high demand jobs.
The program is a project of the UNAP/RI Hospital Health Care Education Trust and Women & Infants Hospital, in partnership with other health care employers, unions, community organizations, education providers, and funders.
Aime Brissette, executive director of the program, said, “The graduation ceremonies are always inspirational; they remind us why we do what we do.”
Connecting for Children and Families is a community-based nonprofit organization with a mission to improve the quality of family and community life in Woonsocket. CCF offers a wide range of family support initiatives including quality childcare, before and after-school enrichment; parenting education and support, and community safety initiatives.
Family Resources Community Action (FRCA) is one of the oldest not-for-profit family centered social service organizations in Rhode Island. Dedicated to serving vulnerable families in Woonsocket and throughout Northern Rhode Island, FRCA has been a leader in the development of community based services to strengthen families and individuals through education and economic opportunity.