This year began with a celebration for 20 students in the SNAP Employment & Training Pilot Project. With its largest graduating class, SNAP celebrated students who received industry recognized credentials in healthcare, welding, IT/cybersecurity, CDL and fiber optics.
The EleVAte SNAP Employment and Training Pilot Program is a three-year grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service awarded to 10 states nationwide. The largest award went to the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS), with Virginia's Community Colleges (VCCS) as the primary official sub-recipient.
Thomas Nelson Community College is one of seven VCCS schools offering the new employment and training program. Led by Dr. Val Livingston, Thomas Nelson SNAP project director, SNAP has successfully changed the lives of men and women from Hampton and Newport News Social Services departments.
During the graduation, Kelly Hafer of Newport News shared the poem "Dare to Dream." Hafer earned a Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) certification and has already secured a position with Health Net. She served as part of the team who orchestrated the September Blood Drive held on the Hampton campus.
Bernadette Frierson, Kelly Hafer and Adriel Robinson of the CMAA program stand in front of the American Red Cross blood drive mobile. The team coordinated a successful blood drive in September on the Hampton campus.
"I was working from home and ready to turn a new page in my life," stated Adriel Robinson, who also worked on the Capstone Blood Drive. "I looked at the programs Thomas Nelson offered and learned I qualified for SNAP. The CMAA program was a great opportunity. This has been a learning experience, one that I am happy to be a part of; I've enjoyed the process."
Through tear-filled eyes, Robinson thanked her children, teachers and fellow students. She also reminded those in the audience that they all could do anything they set their minds to do, "Just wake up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other and it's done."
Robinson also received a Certified Medial Administrative Assistant certification and has already secured a job in billing & coding.
This is the second graduation ceremony hosted by the program. In October six students received their certifications including Thaddeus Jackson who earned Thomas Nelson’s first Certificate for Apartment Maintenance Technician from the National Apartment Association Education Association.
“I came down [to Virginia] from New York with all these certifications and still ran into a brick wall,” stated Jackson. “In Virginia I had to start over, so after I received SNAP I made this call. Through everything I have enhanced what I know.”
One of January’s graduates, Francis Hall celebrated her victories in October and January. Through her testament of patience and hard work Hall, a mother of eight, celebrated earning her GED in October and her CMAA in January.
There are personal successes that accompany each of the educational gains that the SNAP E&T program has provided to students from Hampton and Newport News. As the program continues Livingston and her team will make a continued effort to create more successes for those who are ready to take the next step.