Giving hope, opportunity

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By Raylyn Rollins

(from left) Shelagh Camak, Michael Wright, John Sousa, Jill Marks and Monica Green of Workforce Preparation. (Katrina Manio)

By Raylyn Rollins

The Workforce Preparation center at Riverside City College helps students with disadvantaged backgrounds achieve success in college and future careers.

Each of the six legs of Workforce Preparation aim to help different types of students – from a general student, to foster children to those on public assistance – each program can get students to where they need to be.

The goal of Workforce Preparation is to provide “learners with a continuum of services that help learners achieve academic success, gainful employment and self-sufficiency.”

Shelagh Camak, Associate Vice Chancellor of Workforce Development, described Workforce Preparation as a step in the ultimate goal of a college education.

“It’s getting students from where they are to where they want to go,” she said.

John Sousa, director of the Foster Youth Emancipation Program of Workforce Preparation, has the goal of helping those around the community.

“You look at anyone in the community who wants to go to college. If you find yourself at the doors of our office, we make that happen,” he said.

The program started back in 1996 when the government started a major welfare reform.

The result came in 1998 with New Visions, a test program for welfare recipients that would develop basic skills for success in college. The potential participants had to be working a job and show financial need.

Those eligible for New Visions were selected at random to be part of a treatment group.

Everyone else was put into a control group and at the end of the testing period, RCC administrators would evaluate whether to keep and expand the program.

With priority registration, counseling and classes to develop basic skills for college, the result was not only success, but a way to develop the program into a multi-legged organization aimed to help disadvantaged individuals.

Each part of the program caters a little differently to a particular type of student.

The most general program for students is the Skills Classes, open to all RCC students.

Classes are offered in subjects such as reading, writing, math, computers, life management and English. Students looking to refine basic skills with flexible class times would find these classes beneficial.

The Basic Skills classes is the New Visions program in its most basic and original conception.

According to Monica Green of Workforce Preparation, since formation, the classes have seen well over 800 individuals.

After the classes opened to the general public of RCC in the winter of 2003, the classes have changed to be comprised with roughly 80 percent of general students.

The CalWORKs Program is for students who have minor children, work at least 20 hours per week and attend school.

They can receive support services that include resume assistance, job search, priority registration, case management, counseling and child care workshops.

CalWORKs is only available to those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF.

Also available for those on TANF is the TANF-Child Development Careers Program. This program allows CalWORKs recipients to pursue a Child Development Permit.

These classes are usually shorter than a usual semester and are flexible for a wide range of availabilities.

Another program under Workforce Preparation is the Gateway to College program.

This program targets high-risk youth in high schools and high school dropouts and allows them to finish their high school education while earning college credits. Students can complete high school and college at the same time.

According to Jill Marks, Dean/Principle of Gateway to College, one out of three students in California is a high school dropout. With Gateway to College, the plan is to reintroduce these students to education.

Since its inception, Gateway to College has enrolled over 300 students.

“They go from being a dropout to college in one fell swoop,” Marks said.

Each program under Workforce Preparation is geared toward disadvantaged youth and adults around Riverside.

“We want to give hope to those who maybe don’t have that hope,” Sousa said.

Students interested in any of the programs offered by Workforce Preparation can visit the office in the Tech A building on the Riverside City campus.

Workforce Preparation may be that first step in achieving ultimate success in any area.

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