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Training for a better life

March 06, 2005|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Following a failed marriage and bouts with unemployment, Sandy Moats was left to raise her five children alone after she and her husband split up.

Attending college was the furthest thing from her mind.

"Things were crazy, and all I had was $80 a week in child support for the other three children," she said.

But with the help of several area agencies, Moats applied for financial aid and was accepted into Hagerstown Community College's certified nursing assistant program in 2003. She hadn't been in a classroom since high school, and admits she was not a star student at the time. But she was on a mission to save her family, she said.

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"My attitude changed for the better," Moats said. "I knew it would make life better for my kids."

After being accepted, she also enrolled in HCC's Job Training Institute, which also is on campus. The institute is staffed with caseworkers who advise students needing additional support.

Many of the institute's 289 students are single parents, displaced workers or area residents who are underemployed, said Lisa Mowen, the institute's coordinator.

"We felt that students in these categories were falling between the cracks," Mowen said. "Our funding portion helps supplement those who don't get enough funding."

Seventy-nine percent of the institute's students are from Washington County, 20 percent are minorities and 85 percent are female, Mowen said. Under the program, students are monitored and offered support with academics, finances, transportation and child care, Mowen said.

In 2003, Moats completed a 10-week program, earning her certified nursing aide certificate. She said the institute offered the support she needed.

"They were extremely supportive," Moats said. "When they found out I had five children, they were just floored."

Through the institute, Moats received assistance to strengthen her academic skills.

"At 35, it's made me stronger and more confident about myself," she said.

After earning her certificate, Moats was hired by Hagerstown's Julia Manor Health Care Center as a geriatric nursing assistant, said Tee Mullan, the center's assistant director of nursing and Moats' supervisor.

"She's very positive in her job and in her personal life, too - that's being a survivor," Mullan said. "She's on her own and she knows she needs to work to survive."

Mullan said Moats joined her team with a refreshing level of enthusiasm that she hasn't seen in a long time.

"She's very genuine and down to earth," Mullan said. "I wish I could clone about 10 of her."

HCC's Job Training Institute tracks students for up to a year after they leave the college, Mowen said. According to the institute's most recent report, 73 percent of students who come through the institute are employed and 54 percent plan to continue their education, she said.

Moats will return to HCC in May to pursue her certified medicine aide certificate, which will allow her to distribute patient medication.

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