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Health Program Lifts Young Man Out of Poverty

Walking down the street,
Clearing my head,
Hating my life,
Wishing I was in my bed,
Chatting to myself,
People think I’m crazy,
Call me what you want,
But don’t call me lazy,
Three miles in and I am still going,
It has been too long,
Still chatting to myself,
On what went wrong,
Because I’m not seeing the picture,
The one I vision in my head,
Did I really mean them?
Or there any words to be said,
I shouldn’t think so,
I don’t mind hard work,
I hope it pays off,
So I can be an EKG Expert,
I’m going for new adventures,
Striving for new heights,
This program is like an “eagle.”
But soon I will take flight,
And when I take flight,
I don’t want to come down,
So I can tell people, who put me down,
I will see you around,
Each day is a new day,
A new day to begin,
You think I’m Happy,
You think I want to sing,
Because one day brings you closer,
To your dream,
But dreams are like everything else it “cost”
So it is not easy like it seems,
But one day you will succeed.

Photos of Quinton SandersThis poem about overcoming adversity was written by Quinton Sanders, a young man from South Carolina whose dreams were bigger than his reality. Out of school, out of work and living in poverty, Sanders’ future seemed to be ending before it even began.

The Sumter native, who often expresses himself through poetry, put his family before his future when he dropped out of the 11th grade to care for his elderly grandmother. Eventually, his grandmother had to be placed in a nursing home. Although a big responsibility was lifted from Sanders’ shoulders, he was left with other challenges to deal with: years of missed high school, no graduation and no income.

“I tried to apply for jobs, but they wouldn’t take anyone without a diploma,” said Sanders, who searched for work at fast food restaurants, rehabilitation centers and stores. Frustrated, Sanders turned to a neighbor for help. His neighbor told him about a local GED/jobs program – YouthBuild.

Sanders applied to the program and within one year he was accepted into YouthBuild, where he received job training and earned his GED in 2010. YouthBuild directors saw potential in Sanders and recommended him for another program called Project HOPE.

Project HOPE is an initiative created by the South Carolina Department of Social Services to address the needs of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients and other low-income people. Project HOPE administers a grant provided by the Affordable Care Act’s Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) program. HPOG provides education and training to TANF recipients and other low-income individuals for occupations in the health care field that pay well and are expected to experience labor shortages or be in high demand.

In this program, Sanders was able to break out of his introverted persona and discover his abilities to learn new skills, which included working in teams, taking on leadership roles and earning certificates to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA), electrocardiograph technician (EKG) and a phlebotomist.

“I only wanted to study to become an EKG,” said Sanders. “But Project HOPE told me I would be more marketable if I learned more skills.”

Thanks to his skills in phlebotomy, Sanders landed a job with a medical group shortly after graduating.

Sanders, like many in the HPOG program, found work thanks to a demand in the health care industry. According to a 2012 U.S. Department of Labor report, Occupation Outlook Handbook, the health care and social assistance industry is projected to create about 28 percent of all new jobs created in the U.S. economy by 2020. Professions in public and private hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, and individual and family services are expected to grow by 33 percent (or 5.7 million new jobs).

Anticipating this growth, the Affordable Care Act gave ACF’s Office of Family Assistance funding for 32 HPOG programs throughout the nation. Participants receive health care-related training in the following fields, among others:

  • Home care aides
  • Certified nursing assistants
  • Medical assistants
  • Pharmacy technicians
  • Emergency medical technicians
  • Licensed vocational nurses
  • Registered nurses
  • Dental assistants
  • Health information technicians

Grantees work with community partners to enhance supportive services for participants, such as transportation, dependent care and temporary housing.

Sanders recommends this program to anyone who is eligible to participate.

“The teachers were the best. I could understand them. I learned a lot,” says Sanders, who works full-time, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity where they pay for your classes. This program is unbelievable.”

Sanders has been saving money since his first paycheck in order to put a down payment on a car and hopefully a future home. But his dream is not over yet.

“Soon I will start my classes for EMT [emergency medical technician] training. After I do that, I’m going for my bachelor’s degree,” said Sanders, who hopes to continue his success in the medical field.

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