Achieving the Dream and the seven colleges in the Northeast Resiliency Consortium (NRC) have developed a resiliency competency model important to the success of students as they exit college, get their first job or change to a new job. Enjoy reading this story about one NRC student.
Student Name: Marialuisa Solis
Location: Passaic County Community College (PCCC), Paterson, NJ
Program of Study: Community Health Worker
When Marialuisa immigrated to the United States in 2005, she was 25 years old and uncertain about what the future held for her. She began working as a maid at a local fitness facility in New Jersey and then worked her way up to managing the facility’s front desk and teaching aerobics classes for local senior citizens.
During that time, Marialuisa’s father was diagnosed with diabetes, and as she watched him struggle with his health and eventually pass away, she realized she wanted to do more with her life and make a greater impact on society.
The passing of her father led her to enroll in the Passaic County Multi-Skilled Healthcare Worker Training Initiative (HCTI) at Passaic County Community College (PCCC). The four-month program uses an innovative curriculum, student supports, employer partnerships and work-based learning to ensure that students are prepared both academically and vocationally for a long-term career in the regional healthcare industry.
The HCTI training is funded by the United States Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program. Passaic Community College offers the HCTI in its role as a member of the Northeast Resiliency Consortium (NRC), a consortium of seven Northeast community colleges that came together in the wake of manmade and natural disasters to providing new opportunities to help build a skilled, resilient workforce prepared to enter high-demand jobs
The NRC Experience
After taking ESL classes at PCCC in 2013, Marialuisa enrolled in an introductory Community Health Worker class at PCCC in August 2014. She excelled in the classroom but had to hit “pause” on her educational pursuits because the rest of the courses she needed were only offered in the daytime when she had to work. She continued to work as a parenting class assistant at a local school as she awaited an opportunity to complete the remaining courses.
In August 2015, PCCC began to offer evening classes for Community Health Worker students, and Marialuisa quickly enrolled in them. By December 2015, she had completed her community health worker credential. At the conclusion of the program, she was placed in a 40-hour a week internship at the American Cancer Society, where she worked with the community outreach team.
Marialuisa said, “My classroom experiences as a student at PCCC is the reason why I am now employed and successful in my career. Without those experiences, I would not know how to properly excel in my job function. The program turned me into a real go-getter. The faculty, the access to internships and even my fellow students are the real reason behind my current success.”
Soon after her internship concluded at the American Cancer Society, Marialuisa received a full-time job offer. She now works as a Family Support Worker at the Passaic County Healthy Families-TIP Program, which is part of the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey. She works with low income and minority families who are struggling with managing childcare, financial and healthcare issues. In this role, she teaches a diverse range of courses, from prenatal classes for pregnant women to early intervention classes for children from birth to three years old. She monitors family progress and compliance based on the Family Goal Plan and monitors growth and development of the family’s children.
In the next year, Marialuisa plans to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in public health and hopes to also obtain a certification in domestic violence prevention so she can help more families throughout her community.
Marialuisa said, “It’s never too late to have goals, it’s never too late to plan for the future. My experiences within the NRC program propelled me to keep believing in myself, and to also pursue my ambition of helping other people through my career. Little by little, month by month and year by year I am meeting my own life goals. I now am a fluent English language speaker, have a job with full benefits and handle 13 cases under my care. Most importantly, I know I am contributing to my local community and society overall.”