Making Connections: Beyond Career Training and Job Search Services
Jessica Turner came to our office a year ago in need of assistance paying for school. After several years in the workforce in technical support, Jessica was ready for a big change and a new challenge. She enrolled at Midwestern Career College to pursue her AAS degree in NICVS (Non-Invasive Cardiovascular Sonography). She was half way through her program when she learned about the WIOA funds that could be available to her to help ease the financial burden of school. Jessica qualified for services, and Grundy Workforce Services was able to pay for her second year of training.
Now Jessica is a month away from graduating and will take her certification boards soon after that. She has found local employment at Morris Hospital as a cardiology Sonographer. She is working part-time for now, but has secured a full-time spot as soon as she passes her exams. Congrats, Jessica. Thank you for letting us be a part of your story!
More High School Equivalency Graduates Moving On
GED and JJC Certified Nurse Assistant
Early 2015, a young woman called asking about information for her sister who had just moved back to the United States from Mexico. Her sister graduated from high school and was interested in becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (C.N.A.). An appointment was made and Veronica Gonzalez came into our office to explore career services.
Veronica was shy and needed to acquire the GED. Veronica never complained or questioned this-she just jumped in. She began classes at the Joliet Junior College Morris Education Center immediately, and within 6 months, she received her GED.
Although she was attending the GED classes, she was intending on going to school for her C.N.A. license as soon as she could. To bolster her self-confidence and soft skills such as communication and interaction with the public, Veronica became an intern at the Coal City Public Library. The library was Veronica's first choice for an internship site - and what a great choice she made.
The Executive Director, Jolene Frankovich, praised Veronica's excellent participation and contributions to the library and it's patrons. She worked in many different departments including but not limited to the children's department. Veronica believes she gained experience that will serve her well in her career choice as a C.N.A. It was during this internship Veronica began her C.N.A. training at JJC.
Veronica completed her internship with an excellent evaluation, has her GED, and is on her way to becoming a licensed Nursing Assistant with certifications in Phlebotomy and EKG. Veronica states that the process of entering into the Grundy Workforce Services youth program was not difficult; she has gained much since her first visit. We are proud of Veronica, and if she has accomplished this much in one year, we are sure she will go far in her future years as well.
JJC Nursing (RN)
Amber stopped into our office at Grundy Workforce Services, hoping to gain some information on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grant and how it could help pay for her to attend Joliet Junior College's nursing program.
As a working mother, Amber already had a lot on her plate but she was determined to complete her degree in this very challenging field. After determining Amber was eligible for our services, she enrolled in nursing classes. With the financial support she received from Grundy Workforce Services, Amber continued to do well in her courses and said it really helped that she didn't have the extra stress of paying for her education.
Amber recently completed her training and graduated this May! Toward the end of her training, Amber met with her coordinator to review and update her resume to prepare for her job search. Before graduating, Amber was offered and accepted a Registered Nurse (RN) position with Morris Hospital. Amber is so excited to begin this next chapter of her life!
JJC Automotive Services
Seeing a client leave Grundy Workforce is often sad; however, with Roberto Luna, pride and satisfaction were the only emotions swirling around him as he said his goodbyes to us.
When Roberto first came to our office, he was already walking in the career path of his choice - Automotive Service. He was enrolled with Joliet Junior College (JJC) and working a part-time job. However, with Pell grant funding being precarious, he wanted to avoid any future obstacles possible, and therefore applied to Grundy Workforce Services and consequently became a client.
It can be true that some young adults have a difficult time adjusting to a world without a lot of hand-holding, but Roberto does not fit that stereotype. He attended workshops, kept in contact often by email or by dropping in at the office, and always took his academic performance seriously. Rarely was he reminded of a deadline or an appointment.
Roberto graduated from JJC this past May with multiple honors: (3) three Certificates of Completions, (2) two Certificates of Achievements, and an Associate in Applied Science of Automotive Service. Although he could have stopped his career training at this point, Roberto instead packed up and headed to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale to begin undergraduate work in Automotive Technology.
He is a success academically and as a Grundy Workforce participant, but most importantly, as a human being. He is kind, hard-working and helpful to his friends and strangers alike. Roberto made our office laugh with his good natured spirit and smile, and we can't wait to hear of his college adventures.
More High School Equivalency Graduates Moving On
Dropping out of high-school is not the choice most students want to make for their education path, but unfortunately sometimes it happens. Once again, our office has had students enter the High School Equivalency (HSE) program and finish in recording time.
Both Michelle Kellen and Nicholas Echeverria began their H.S.E. journey and were able to graduate in a few short months. Nicholas is currently in a 3 month internship at We Care and plans to enroll in the EMT program at Joliet Junior College. He plans to use his remaining 3 months of the internship opportunity with a fire department. Michelle is currently looking into education and career paths. We have a few more students that are nearing their graduation moment. Stay tuned!
In May of 2018, Alec Matteson graduated from Morris High School with plans to attend JJC's Automotive Service program. He started a summer internship with the City of Morris shortly after graduation. Through his internship, he learned about the services we offer at Grundy Workforce Services, and he came in to learn more about what we could do for him.
Alec qualified for both career and training services in our adult program. He is currently attending JJC, though no longer for auto. His internship at the city introduced him to a field he had not previously considered - Industrial Maintenance. JJC offers multiple certifications and degrees in this high growth field. Through Grundy Workforce Services, Alec receives tuition and supply vouchers for school and individualized support from our staff. We were also able to extend his internship with the City of Morris for an additional six months, for which for Alec and his supervisors were grateful.
JJC Computer Assisted Design and Drafting (CADD)
Jordan Bunzel, a young woman, has built her own road to success. As a single woman, Jordan worked full time in a job that was physically taxing, low pay and no prospects. She recognized the need to work in a field which availed better pay, benefits and growth potential: Computer Assisted Design and Drafting (CADD) was her choice.
As a client of Grundy Workforce Services, Jordan says, "The process is not at all hard; there is paperwork and then it's up to you to keep it going. [Staff] are nice and helpful. Jen has been a life-saver...and I appreciate everything she has done to help me with my education so much".
Jordan began training at Joliet Junior College (JJC) in their CADD certificate of achievement program with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding: "GWS has helped me a lot...pay for college and the books for my entire degree without me obtaining anymore debt. That is awesome." With her determination and focus, she has maintained high grades, built networking relationships with her professors and peers, began tutoring and mentoring others and enhanced her program to the CADD associate's degree. She will be finished with her formal training at JJC at the end of this semester, May 2016.
In addition to these substantial gains in her soft and academic skills, Jordan is currently acquiring real-life job skills through the work-based learning. Seating Concepts in Rockdale, IL hired her as a CADD Drafter/Detailer/Technician. Of this experience, Jordan feels, "the internship is so worth the time. [I] gained knowledge of this field, learned skills that prepared me for future jobs. [I] am happy I am in this internship and not just running to a job that I may not be prepared for. It's nice when you find a place that respects you being fresh out of school and are willing to teach you. I recommend anyone completing a degree to go through an internship".
Jordan is thriving in this internship and is garnering much needed hands-on experience. Perseverance and tenacity have been Jordan's guiding characteristics under the Grundy Workforce Services program. Her academic and soft skills are strong, but it is her drive to overcome hurdles and grasp possibilities that have ultimately led her to a place of dynamic and prosperous self-reliance. "I highly recommend GWS, for they have so much to give," Jordan offered, "and it can only benefit you."
Angel Enerson was working at Morris Hospital as an Environmental Services Associate, and just knew that she was capable and destined for more. She realized she was passionate about patient care, and wanted to transition to working as a Certified Nursing Assistant. She came to our office knowing that this was the right path for her, and we were able to help her achieve her goals!
Angel completed the Certified Nurse Assistant (C.N.A.) program at Joliet Junior College with honors, and was hired on as a C.N.A. at Morris Hospital shortly after completing the program. Angel stated that she is so grateful to Grundy Workforce Services for giving her the opportunity to complete this training, and helping her find a career path that she loves. "Grundy Workforce Services is in the business of changing lives, and I'm so happy I got to be one of those lives! Having my C.N.A. has already opened up so many different opportunists for me, and I'm excited to see what the future has in store!"
Local Student Receives Illinois Workforce Partnership Award
Ramon was one of only 19 students in the State of Illinois who received the Individual Achievement Award by the Illinois Workforce Partnership in Springfield.
Nominated by his career planner, Meg Barton, Ramon was selected as the recipient of our tri-county area which includes Grundy, Livingston and Kankakee counties. We are very proud of Ramon as he graduates this semester at Joliet Junior College under the Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) program and has already obtained employment locally.
Here is the success story that Meg submitted!
Ramon Echeverria came to Grundy Workforce Services the summer after he finished high school. Having been exposed to CADD during his time at Grundy Area Vocational Center, he was confident in his career choice and began working on his A.A.S degree in Computer Aided Design and Drafting in fall of 2016.
Completing an AAS degree in the three years allowed by WIOA regulations can be challenging for any student, and especially for those who work part-time jobs as well. Ramon has carried a full-time credit load as a student at JJC while also working close to full-time hours. This fall, in just two and a half years, he will take his final class and graduate, most likely with honors.
Most students under the age of 24 who receive training services from WIOA also participate in our internship program. In April of 2017, Ramon began an internship at CADD Professionals in Morris. He excelled in his role there and was praised for his "mature demeanor and professional attitude" as well as his design talent and reliability. He so impressed the owner of the business that after successfully completing his six month internship through GWS, he was hired on by CADD Professionals. He stayed there until this summer when he was offered a full-time salaried design position at another local company. Although he has only been out of high school for two years, Ramon is already earning a livable wage and contributing to the local workforce.
With a full-time job and an Associate's degree, Ramon could take a few years off to rest and enjoy the fruits of his labor; his actual plan is much more ambitious. Ramon applied for and was awarded the Edward R. Valintis Scholarship. He is using the money to take some additional classes in preparation for his transfer to Governor's State University where he will pursue a Bachelor's degree.
Ramon's success story is a perfect example of what a WIOA training scholarship and internship can do for a student who otherwise wouldn't have had the chance. He proudly states, "I am truly honored to be chosen by the Grundy county workforce development award ...Thank you guys so much for everything you've done".
Student Internships Lead to Career Paths
Grundy Workforce Services offers clients in our youth program the opportunity to experience a career before committing to training. Two clients of GWS altered their career paths after completing short-term internships.
Kaylah Mahnke came to GWS with plans to work as a Radiological Technician. At some point during her first year of school, while also working in healthcare, Kaylah began to wonder if she had made the right choice. She met with her GWS career planner and shared her concerns. Fast forward to today, and Kaylah is now working as an intern at a local day care center and loving it! This opportunity has confirmed for Kaylah that a career in early childhood is a better fit.
Victoria Hanford was ready to pursue a career in an office, but her internship at a local residential care facility led her to a completely new field. After spending three months working as an administrative intern at The Gardens of Park Pointe, Victoria decided that the Certified Nurse Assistants (C.N.A.'s) were having more fun, and she is now pursuing C.N.A training.
For both Victoria and Kaylah, an internship through Grundy Workforce Services helped them find career paths that made sense for them.
Continued High Demand for Truck Drivers Leads to CDL Training
Truck driving opportunities are abundant within our Greater Grundy County Area. The training can be completed in as little as four weeks and there are training course start dates each month. Due to the quick training and high-wage opportunities, it is a career that many job seekers turn to.
Will moved to our area over a year ago, and was bouncing between different jobs within the food industry. He quickly realized that he needed to attain training to achieve his ultimate goal of having a full-time career in a growing industry.
Having truck driving experience from when he lived in Puerto Rico, he came to us interested in pursuing the Commercial Driver's License to have a steady career. Wilfredo researched a few different CDL programs, and ultimately chose to attend Joliet Junior College to complete his credential. After his successful completion of the program, Wilfredo said, "I am so grateful for this opportunity. Grundy Workforce Services and JJC have been so helpful throughout the training process. I couldn't have done it without them!" We are so happy for Wilfredo's success, and are excited for all of the opportunities his new credential will bring him.
In our next newsletter, you'll read about Jennifer Painter who came to Grundy Workforce Services knowing exactly want she wanted to do. Having been employed as a School Bus Driver with her CDL-B for 8 years, she was confident that she could transition to a CDL-A with the proper training. Jennifer is currently enrolled in the CDL-A program at Advantage Driver Training, and is a force to be reckoned with!
Where Are They Now? Erin Tezak and Roberto Luna
First comes love, then comes education. Well, in this fairy tale and in probably many that we know, this is how the love story started.
Last year, we highlighted Erin Tezak, a Grundy Workforce Services (GWS) student who graduated with her Associate of Applied Science and quickly obtained employment as a Registered Nurse. Erin did not stop her career path and attended Governor's State University where she earned her Bachelor's Degree in Nursing.
Prior to Erin's success story, we introduced you to another GWS student, Roberto Carlos Luna. Roberto graduated with his Associate of Applied Science in Automotive Service Technology and went on to Southern Illinois University to continue his education.
In May 2018, Erin and Roberto graduated with their Bachelor's Degrees. Roberto was recruited by a company for a Technician and Apprentice Management full-time position in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. While in the process of packing up their lives and deciding on moving to another state, Erin was offered a full-time nursing position in the Neuro/Ortho unit in . . . South Dakota!
Things just seem to be falling into place for these two. But, both Erin and Roberto have worked hard for their educations with many plans in mind. They have been dedicated while being able to stay out of debt. We are sure there will be more to their story. We look forward to seeing where these two are in the next few years. Stay tuned!
Jennifer Current came to us passionate about helping others, and with a wealth of experience in Home Health. Jennifer completed the Certified Nursing Assistant program at Joliet Junior College, and was offered employment before she even finished the program! She is continuing her passion of working with the elderly at The Gardens at Park Pointe, and has truly become an asset to their organization.
Slow seasons and lay-offs are common realties for many construction workers. Blacktop specialist, Jason Valerio, is all too aware of this reality, and came to us wanting to complete training to help attain his Commercial Driver's License (CDL-A). Within five weeks of starting his classes, Jason completed his CDL training at Joliet Junior College!
He is now driving for a local Propane Delivery Company! Attaining your CDL is a wonderful way to find work during slow times and layoffs, and can help keep you working all year long!
JJC Patient Care Technician
I believe I was meant to be a Patient Care Tech. It makes me happy knowing I make a difference in people's day. When I was going through the process of trying to join the "bridge program" to become a C.N.A at JJC, there was a counselor who told me about Grundy Workforce Services. I called and spoke to Sarah Hintze, who gave me information about the WIOA grant and programs. Once I researched the Patient Care Tech program offered at the Healthcare Training Institute, I felt going through Grundy Workforce was the right choice. I didn't want to just stop at C.N.A. I eventually wanted to be certified as an EKG technician and phlebotomist as well. Grundy Workforce helped me achieve all three certificates with ease.
I never thought before I entered the WIOA program that I would be able to feel worthy of something great, or to be considered more than just a "housewife" to my family. The WIOA program has helped me make such positive changes in my life. Due to my training, I have an increased belief in myself and my abilities. This opportunity has given me my confidence back. I was lost before I entered the program and I didn't think my career goals mattered, nor did I think about my future. Thanks to this program, I now envision my life moving forward.
Now, I know I will never stop succeeding. I have a fulfilled sense of achievement because of the WIOA Program. When starting the program, I had a two year old child and soon became pregnant with my second baby. Throughout my training, I was never made to feel as if I had to quit or stop, to only be a mother. They have supported me every step of the way and with their help I have been able to successfully finish the Patient Care Tech program, raise my kids, and take on two jobs that I absolutely love. The program lifted my spirits and made a great impact on not only my life, but my family's as well. I know my future is brighter and believe there is still greatness out there. The WIOA program has given me hope and helped me to never give up because I know I can continue to succeed. I am truly beyond grateful! I cannot imagine where I would be if I have never pursued the workforce program.
HTI Patient Care Technician
Many young people come through our doors for many reasons, but few go beyond their original goals. Miranda Carter is an example of how hard work, perseverance and positive attitude can change someone's life.
At her entrance in Grundy Workforce, Miranda had some obstacles to overcome. Academically Miranda struggled with reading comprehension, yet persisted and passed eligibility requirements. She was working an overnight job, supporting herself, and functioning as emotional support for her atypical family. However, she had had little support of her own.
After researching program options, Miranda chose to attend Genesis Healthcare Institute. Genesis provided her with academic support while she trained as a Patient Care Tech-her ideal career. The first class, Nursing Assistant, proved difficult because of her reading comprehension limitations, but she counteracted this with multiple readings, taking copious notes and studying. She did very well in her clinical and was praised by the school administrator for her diligence.
During this time, Miranda decided to take advantage of the Internship portion of the WIOA program. She researched local employers and submitted her resume to Rezin Orthopedics. I accompanied her on her interview: She was well spoken, poised and had obviously done research on the employer and field. The tie-in of medical office experience, understanding and learning medical billing and coding as well as interacting with staff and patients was an apt match. She was praised by Rezin Office throughout her experience.
Mid-way through the internship, personal matters developed which were out of Miranda's control. She kept in contact, did not miss work, and sought assistance. Unfortunately, she was forced to leave school and the internship. Rezin Orthopedics supported decision and provided a positive final evaluation; Genesis assured her she could resume her training when she was able.
Miranda was gone for approximately 5 weeks. After her return, she stepped back into her training. Miranda's training as a Patient Care Tech will be complete at the end of this month. Miranda recently was hired at Heritage Assisted Living in Dwight; soon after her start date, she was offered full time employment with benefit. This speaks to her work ethic, ability and kindness.
As long as I have now known Miranda, she has never seen herself as having less than others or asked for special help. She is gracious, willing to accept suggestions and always thankful. Miranda has achieved her original goal of becoming a Patient Care Tech, yet this aspiration may well be overshadowed: Miranda is researching nursing programs for her future. Wherever Miranda steps next will surely be a vibrant illustration for others to observe and follow.
Student Success Story: Kaylah Mahnke
Lack of financial means is a primary reason potential students do not enroll in college. Many are not familiar with searching for scholarships and grants that potentially pay for full tuition and book expenses.
Kaylah Mahnke stopped by the JJC Morris Education Center to inquire about courses available close to home. Little did she know, she would be provided with local grant information via the Grundy WIOA youth program. She was excited to know that going to school was a possibility after not being able to enroll due to financial need.
She quickly followed the Grundy youth grant eligibility process and received academic advising to educate her on growing labor market trends and internship possibilities. Although her long-term goal was to be a nurse, she decided to pursue nursing assisting training to be able to gain quick hands-on knowledge in the healthcare field within just one semester.
Immediately after training, her career planner coordinated a paid-internship at a local assisted living facility. Within just three months, her strong work ethic, current knowledge/training and desire to work with people earned her a job offer at her internship site!
Now, Kaylah has a secure job and is on to her next step in growing within the healthcare field-not as a nurse, but as a radiologist after conducting extensive career research. Kaylah expresses, "First, the Grundy youth program paid for my nursing assistant training and then they helped me secure a job after coordinating a paid-internship close to home! My hands-on experience will benefit me in the future as I pursue training in radiology."
Student Success Story: Tessa Wulffen
In November of 2016, Tessa walked through the doors of Grundy Workforce Services, and she has been impressing us ever since.
In the year and a half since she began with our program, Tessa has completed her Certified Nursing Assistant (C.N.A.) training, maintained a 3.8 GPA in her nursing pre-requisite classes, and is a member of the JJC Honors student organization Phi Theta Kappa. This spring, she aced her TEAS test and applied to the JJC Nursing program for Fall of 2018.
Not only does she shine academically, but just a few weeks ago, Tessa was hired as a C.N.A in the Intensive Care Unit at Morris Hospital. When she stopped by to share the news, she thanked us with a big smile and a box of donuts. She stated "Thank you so much for all the help and support you have given me! I would not be where I am today without the wonderful people at the Grundy County Workforce".
Tessa's thoughtfulness and positive attitude are just a few of the many traits that will make her a great nurse. We at Grundy Workforce Services are proud to be a part of this success story by assisting Tessa through training and providing talented, hard-working employees for Grundy County businesses.
Where Are They Now? Joshua Biggers 2018
Three years ago, Josh Biggers became part of Grundy Workforce Services as part of the My Future youth program. His primary goal was to obtain his high school equivalency. Concurrently, he decided to participate in a paid-internship program as a maintenance technician at the Grundy County Housing Authority in Morris, IL.
By June of 2015, Josh successfully earned his General Educational Development (GED) diploma and was excited to start job searching. Although it wasn't quick and easy, Josh managed to get a job at Michelin Tire's Global warehouse in Wilmington, IL. He enjoyed his job, but he still envisioned his life-long dream of working for the railroad knowing that the journey was far from over-yet achievable.
In January of 2017, Josh enlisted in the United States Army Reserves as what's known as an 88U Railway Specialist. His role as an 88U consists of operating trains on military bases as a Conductor or Engineer while in the United States and providing advisory assistance on railroads while outside of the United States. He is one of only 180 people in the entire military that is responsible for such mission.
After he returned from basic training in Ft Jackson, SC, Josh began working at A&R Logistics in Channahon, IL, transloading polypropylene pellets from railcars into bulk trailers.
Congratulations to Josh on achieving his dream and continued success. Thank-you, Josh, for your service!
GED Success Stories May Take A Long Time To Happen, But They Do
If you don't have your high school equivalency, you are not alone! According to the US Census, over three million youth drop out of school every year. Obtaining a high school equivalency is not an easy process, but our recent graduates will attest that it is worth it! Having your high school equivalency can set you up to earn more money, and pursue a career path that is productive and fulfilling!
Chase Coatney's journey to attain his GED is one of resiliency. Chase visited our office in 2016 with the intent of getting more information on how to complete his GED, and left gaining a whole new support system. Chase stated that Grundy Workforce Services helped motivate him to not lose sight of his goal of a GED. Chase said, "I tell all my friends to come to GWS! It's a great organization, and helps give you what you need to succeed."
Chase found it difficult to balance full-time work and school, but found a valuable resource in GWS Manager, Sarah Hintze. Chase said, "Dealing with Sarah has been my favorite part of this process, she has helped me and motivated me to not only finish my GED, but also make a plan for my future!" Through GWS, Chase is currently working an internship with the City of Morris Public Works Department. He hopes to continue in this line of work in the future, as well as pursue his CDL.
Gabby Hanson and Jennifer Croaxton
When Gabby and Jen came to Grundy Workforce Services in January of 2017, they had never met. Both were facing transitions in their lives that lead them to our center in search of a new career path; both selected our popular Advanced C.N.A program which includes Phlebotomy and EKG training along with Certification as a Nursing Assistant.
Within a few weeks of walking through our doors, they were enrolled in training to become C.N.A.s. In May of 2017, Jen and Gabby were accepted into the Phlebotomy training where they found their true calling and each other.
In the months since, they have become great friends, remain classmates in the final phase of their training, and will soon be co-workers at Morris Hospital. Their new careers - Gabby works as a C.N.A., and Jen found employment in the lab as a phlebotomist - allow them to care for their families and feel proud about what they contribute. Gabby described her experience as "...the best journey I have been on".
Veterinary Technician Internship
Alisha Emmons came to our program in spring of 2017. She was one of several Grundy County residents affected by the closure of the ITW Plant in Mazon.
Alisha decided to make a change and pursue training in an entirely new field - Veterinary Medicine. She came to Grundy Workforce Services (GWS) after learning that we could help pay for her education. To be eligible for admission to the Vet Tech program at Joliet Junior College, applicants must complete 80 hours of field experience.
In additional to providing training dollars to qualified individuals, GWS also offers work-based learning in the form of paid internships. Through a partnership with Dwight Veterinary Clinic, Alisha was able to complete all 80 hours of field experience required for admission to her chosen program. Because she performed so well during those first weeks, Dwight Veterinary Clinic opted to keep her on for the maximum internship period allowed.
Our internships benefit the community in two ways:
- Job seekers looking to transition to new careers gain needed exposure to their new field. Many young clients come in our center never having held a job. Our internships allow them to develop critical employability skills in a learning-based environment.
- Local businesses have the opportunity to try out new employees without incurring the expense of training. Several businesses have gone on to extend offers to our clients after the six-month internship has concluded. For other businesses and not-for-profit organizations, our interns provide an extra pair of hand they couldn't otherwise afford.
Advantage Driver Training
In November of 2016, Ken Svab found himself facing a situation that is all too common. After many years of work in one field, his job was eliminated, and he had to start over.
While attending a Communication Skills workshop offered at our center in Morris, Ken learned of the career retraining support services available to him.
Over the next few months, Ken researched and explored several employment, training, and career options and reached a conclusion; he no longer wanted to work behind a desk. In May of 2017, he enrolled in CDL training through Advantage Truck Driving School. By August, he was a fully licensed CDL-A driver, and today, is employed in his new field.
Ken had this to say about coming to GWS "I wish to thank all people - receptionists, secretaries, counselors, and people I have met and do not have a title for - at the Grundy County Workforce for all the wonderful work and a great experience. Everyone always has a smile on their face with a no-rush, "we have time for you" attitude, and in particular, the assistance in updating my resume, workshops that have been offered, personalized guidance and suggestions.
For many students, transferring from Joliet Junior College (JJC) to a four-year college or university is a popular path. However, what happens when a student decides to do the reverse route?
Erin Tezak, of Mazon, started college at Carroll University in Wisconsin. After a couple of weeks there, she quickly found out that the university life was not as she had imagined.
"I had so many difficulties trying to get in contact with my professors," she said. "I did not like that at all."
After one semester, Tezak made the decision to move back home. She considered many different schools before choosing JJC.
"Since I am from Seneca and JJC was in my backyard, I never saw it as an option. However, after meeting with Workforce Development and weighing all of my options, JJC was the best choice for me and it was the best decision I have made."
Tezak chose JJC for three reasons: affordability, location, and the nursing program.
"When I first started to look into other colleges, I knew that I did not want to be bombarded with debt. I also knew that I did not want to travel too far. JJC allowed me to do just that."
Thanks to the Grundy Workforce Services program, Tezak received a grant through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which helped pay for her tuition, books and the nursing board tests.
The biggest reason why she chose JJC was because of its nursing program.
"The program has so many great professors and advisors. They really care about their students and they want you to succeed," she said.
Tezak said that once she decided to make JJC her new "home" everything else just fell in place.
"When I got into the nursing program, I just fell in love. The Nursing Department has so much to offer, from the department tutor, to peer mentors, and the state-of-the-art simulation lab. Being at JJC just felt like a second home. I finally felt like I had everything I needed to succeed," she added.
Tezak said that she has had ample supply of mentors.
"My first semester clinical instructor, Mary Magruder was amazing. She was very comforting to me my first semester when I was not sure of anything I was doing or if nursing was even the path for me. Another professor who really got me passionate about nursing was my third semester clinical instructor, Colleen Kestel-Branchaw, who retired this past May. Her passion for nursing pushed me to keep trying my hardest even when I felt burnt out and overwhelmed with school and working," Tezak said.
Tezak also credits Sarah Hintze, manager of Grundy Workforce Services at the Morris Education Center, who pushed her to persevere through the program.
"She is one of the people who guided me through my entire experience at JJC," Tezak said. "She was always there if I needed someone to talk to and she always steered me in the right direction. Her strong passion about JJC is why I decided to go to JJC."
JJC Automotive and Internship Completion
Addison (Addie) Kaldheim is a smart and hard-working young man halfway through the Auto Technology program at Joliet Junior College. Although this program has a large class load, Addie was anxious to utilize the internship program through Grundy Workforce Services as well.
Addie knew of an opportunity with Seggebruch Farm in Grundy County where he could build his skills working on large equipment, such as tractors and seeders. Addie provided us with contact information and consequently, the internship was set up and started. He worked very early hours and learned quite a bit in the field of diesel maintenance. He has successfully completed this internship and is now an employee of the farm. He hopes to get his Commercial Driver's License (CDL) soon so he can add more responsibilities to his job with Seggebruch. In the meantime, Addie will begin his final year of auto classes this fall.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and when Addie is working at the farm, it is obvious how successful he is and will continue to be.
Certified Nursing Assistant
A bundle of energy and questions walked through the doors of Grundy Workforce earlier this year. Alena Borchert had a vision of helping people and believed she could find a way. A wife with two small children, she needed help paying for her schooling, but she got more. "I would encourage everyone who wants to do something with a career path to go through [Grundy Workforce Services]...if you don't know where to begin, [it is] a perfect place to start" states Alena.
The process of becoming a certified client with GWS was not difficult, but the Certified Nursing Assistant (C.N.A.) program was demanding at times, especially the quizzes; because she is dyslexic, she worked with Joliet Junior College's STAR program for additional assistance in her academics. Alena's "can-do" attitude never slumped. She proudly finished the C.N.A program with an A grade and is currently working at Rosewood Nursing Home in Joliet.
"I have a career I can be proud of and my kids can be proud of me too" says Alena. She loves the hard and meaningful work she does with the residents at Rosewood, and says she "couldn't have done it without the help of the Grundy Workforce Services."
Choosing a career in automotive technology would be challenging for anyone, and a woman could encounter additional obstacles...unless you are Rachael Bass.
Growing up Rachael's idea of what she wanted to be ranged from a mermaid to a CIA Field Operative, but lucky for her, a random class choice, avoiding gym class and attending Grundy Area Vocational Center (GAVC), led to her career path of Automotive Technician. Rachael explained, "when I got to high school, I realized that I really had no idea of what I was doing...and was actually tracking towards being a drop out". She realized she loved auto classes, and "it also saved me from the path I was headed down at the time." Another random step brought her to Grundy Workforce Services when she came to the JJC Morris Education Center to inquire about a class -- very soon, she was a client.
Rachael is now in the last half of the JJC Automotive Technician program. When she is finished, she will receive a degree in Automotive Technology as well as ASE certifications and then continue her education at Southern Illinois University towards a B.S. in Automotive Technician.
Besides her academic success, Rachael successfully interned at two different local businesses this past year: Salclay (diesel) and J&A Automotive. "The opportunity to work with amazing mechanics as well as observing how a mechanic's shop is run is ...one of the biggest blessings in my education so far." Rachael's long-term goal is to own her own mechanic shop. She is now employed at Morris Public Works.
In addition to the funding, she was able to work with "some amazing people. Not only in the shops ...but also at Grundy Workforce Services." She is confident that with the credentials from JJC and her internship experience, she "will be leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else my age looking to go into this field." Rachael did not see obstacles in her path, only opportunities. Now she is paving the way for others.
Surprisingly, sometimes an unexpected roadblock can lead to a better life path. Dana Potoniec and her husband became unemployed at the same time; it was obvious she needed a career with longevity and earning potential to support her family.
The idea of going to school was very overwhelming for Dana. Nursing as a career was something she had thought about since the birth of her first child, now 23 years old. Because of time and money constraints, she was never able to pursue that dream. Dana reached out to Grundy Workforce Services for resources, funding and support; "Without Grundy Workforce Services I wouldn't have been able to afford to go back to school." Dana had a challenging road ahead of her, which included "developing text anxiety which I never had before. In nursing school, anything below 80% is failing. That really freaked me out. It wasn't until I realized that I never had trouble staying well above the 80% mark prior to nursing school that I was able to overcome the anxiety that I had developed." Dana's accomplishments are all well above failing: Certificate of Achievement for Practical Nursing, December graduate with an Associates of Applied Science in Nursing, State of Illinois Registered Professional Nurse license and an award given by the Nursing Department for Perseverance.
"Grundy Workforce Services gave me an incredible opportunity to go back to school and get my nursing degree so that I can obtain employment that allows me to help support my family. It also taught my children the importance of continuing their education after they graduate from high school. Lastly, it taught my family the importance of community and giving back. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my lifelong dream of being a nurse."
JJC Process Operations Technology
Kameron knew he needed a career but wasn't sure in what industry. Kameron's father, ExxonMobil employee, talked to him about Process Operator positions and the financial stability they provide. Kameron was intrigued and started researching through Joliet Junior College's (JJC) Business and Industry Training department that offers short-term programs. He discovered that many of the people who enrolled in the Process Operator Technician program were receiving job offers at well-known companies such as ExxonMobil.
It took Kameron almost a little over a year to finally buckle down and make the decision to register and attend training so he could provide a stable future for himself. Kameron called and spoke to the program manager that answered course and post-completion questions. Unfortunately, Kameron was not in the position to pay for the program on his own. He was in conversations with his mother, who told him about grants that could possible pay for him to receive his training. Kameron, reached out to Grundy Workforce Services and became eligible for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grant. Thus, he was able to enroll and was accepted into the Process Operator Technician program in August 2016.
Through hard work and dedication, Kameron successfully passed the Process Operator Technician program and began applying for jobs in the field. This month, Kameron accepted a new full-time job in his new training area allowing him to financially support himself: "The WIOA grant changed my life, without this grant I would still be working in the position I was in barely making ends meet. With the training from JJC, I was able to achieve a new job making twice what I was making at my previous job."
Advantage Driver Training
Starting a new career mid-life can be either intimidating or exciting-- Ted Trujillo chose to keep a positive mindset. Ted wanted to work in a field that was in high demand and growth. He researched the logistics field, specifically the CDL Driver training program at Advantage Driver Training. He knew this program would be a good fit.
Although he had some life twists that delayed his start date for training, in due course he was able to begin. There were no challenges while in the program, and Ted successfully completed with a Certificate from Advantage Driver Training; he is now an Illinois CDL Class A driver. Ted is employed with N.F.I. Interactive Logistics, LLC as a driver for Trader Joe' Warehouse in Minooka and enjoying his career.
Ted was looking to begin a new career, and at Grundy Workforce Services, he found resources, funding and support. It was an easy process to apply and was "explained by Jennifer in great detail... [she] is very helpful....great experience." Ted recommends Grundy Workforce Services to everyone: "Jennifer and the staff at Grundy Workforce are extremely friendly, supportive and encouraging thru all aspects of the program. They will go the extra mile for everyone."