By Stan Koutstaal, HPOG Program Manager, Office of Family Assistance
I’m sure that each of us can remember a time during our lives when we faced challenges to achieving our dreams. For me, passing my qualifying exams in graduate school was a major hurdle! Similarly, many of our Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) students have come face-to-face with challenges that threaten to keep them from getting the support and education they deserve. Life is full of barriers along the path to achieving your dreams. Some of us have had more come up than others. Over the past five years of the Office of Family Assistance’s (OFA’s) work administering the HPOG program we have found that, with a little support and hard work, it is possible to overcome those obstacles.
The HPOG program offers education and training to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients and other low-income individuals. We train people in healthcare occupations that pay well and are in demand. HPOG improves job prospects for hard-working adults. We also match careers in a growing field with people who are eager to fill them. Our participants are given the opportunity to obtain higher education, training, and supportive services. All of these are needed to secure sustainable positions that will lead these individuals on a pathway to providing for themselves and their families. With less than a month remaining in our original five-year project period, HPOG grantees across the nation have had 33,038 participants enroll in healthcare training, 23,927 complete healthcare training, and 16,222 gain healthcare employment.
These numbers represent lives that have been changed through HPOG. We are very proud of every HPOG participant and would like to share a couple stories of students who have inspired us. (We have so many great students that it was hard to pick just two!)
Seti faced years of personal struggles. He was far from home, at odds with his family, depressed, unemployed, and homeless. A homeless shelter in San Antonio, Texas, helped connect him with the Alamo Community College District’s short-term training for certified nurse aides. Three months after completing this training, Seti entered the HPOG program at the Alamo Community College District Visit disclaimer page , looking to move to the next step in his healthcare career. Seti’s goal was to become a pharmacy technician. Seti faced many barriers, including the fact that he was homeless and living near a San Antonio shelter. He was not fully registered at the shelter and slept in its outside courtyard, either on a bench or on the ground. He did not have daily access to a space where he could change his clothes privately. Yet, despite his situation, Seti took the bus every morning to his HPOG training classes. Within a week, Alamo HPOG staff helped Seti get a bed at the shelter. The program also helped pay for his transportation to and from school and for his medical clothing. Seti completed the program in January 2015 at the top of his class. He was the first in his cohort to take and pass his certification exam. Today he is a Certified Pharmacy Technician.
Grisheld at Hostos Community College Visit disclaimer page grew up in a one-bedroom apartment with six siblings in Queens, New York. Her living conditions were crowded, chaotic and sometimes violent. Since middle school she felt disconnected from school, spending a lot of her time protecting her younger siblings from violence in the home. Struggling with these challenges, Grisheld dropped out of school her senior year. She had her first child at 19 years old and began working at a medical insurance company. She kept the job for five years and had two additional children. She then decided to stay at home with her kids. Shortly thereafter, she had twins. She relied on public assistance to feed and house herself and her five children. Wanting to make a change, Grisheld completed her General Educational Development (GED) certificate but remained unemployed. While looking for a job, she learned about the HPOG program at Hostos Community College. She enrolled in the Health Information Technology Certification program. She then got an internship to gain experience and was able to update her skills. HPOG offered her the guidance and encouragement needed to balance her school and family. Today Grisheld has steady work and a promising career ahead of her.
We are proud of the many success stories that are a result of our HPOG programs. Congratulations to all of the HPOG students who have followed their dreams and created brighter futures. Visit our 2015 Compendium of Success Stories (PDF) to learn more about our participants’ journeys to success.