SIUE East St. Louis Center Program Helps Adults Prepare for Success
Feelings of rejection and thoughts of hopelessness were on the mind of Angel Dotson the first day she walked into the Connections to Success class, funded by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville East St. Louis Center’s (ESLC) Workforce Development Program.
“I had been fired and was extremely depressed. I had low self-esteem and felt crushed, but a Head Start parent educator told me about this program,” said Dotson, whose three-year-old son is in the SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start Program.
“Everyone was overly welcoming, and they didn’t judge me. They just loved me,” Dotson gushed. “I feel different now. I look forward to getting up every morning and coming to this class. I feel there is something good and positive to work toward.”
Dotson is one of six people taking Connection to Success’ second professional development workshop. The three-week course is designed to motivate and help individuals investigate and find training, employment or better employment, and discover and set personal, professional or educational dreams and goals, according to Vera Jones, parent specialist for the ESLC Learning Resource Center and the Preschool for All Program.
During the class, students take inventory of their life in the following areas: education, employment, housing, transportation, social, spiritual, family, health and finances. Specifically, some of the course tasks include:
- Develop a life plan
- Take a series of personality tests
- Build a resume
- Create short and long term personal and professional goals
- Learn interviewing techniques with area employers holding mock meetings
Connection to Success staffers teaching the classes were: Jenita Hladyshewsky, director of Workforce Innovations, and Precious Smith, Life Transformation coach. The first Connections to Success workshop began Feb. 13 and concluded with a graduation on March 3.
The current class started Feb. 20. Students will graduate at 1 p.m. Friday, March 17 in the SIUE East St. Louis Learning Resource Center on the East St. Louis Higher Education Campus.
“We work with each student to help them find a paid training program or employment,” said Hladyshewsky. “We had seven people in our first class, and all of them either entered a paid training program or were employed after three weeks.”
All six students in the second class are registered to enter the Lume Institute’s Child Development Associate program. The five-week course prepares participants to obtain their Child Development Associate (CDA) credential and offers a paid two-year apprenticeship after they complete course work, complete their professional portfolio and sit for the CDA examination. Successful participants can be employed as a teacher’s assistant apprentice within four to five months of entering the program.
“The SIUE East St. Louis Center is partnering with the best in class training providers, such as Connections to Success and the Lume Institute,” said Johanna Wharton, director of ESLC’s Workforce Development and Strategic Partnerships. “The goal is to meet the needs of parents of the youth that we serve in programs offered by the SIUE ESLC and adults being served by partner organizations.
“We are able to connect adults to free training, that prepares them for living wage employment opportunities, with one year or less of course work. Parents working in living-wage jobs also mean that the children in our programs are living in financially stable households. We have developed a two generation approach to success.”
“The SIUE East St. Center is working to expand our education programming beyond the 2,000 students we serve each day to do more for their parents as well,” added ESLC Executive Director Jesse Dixon. “We believe in the promise of our families and know that this two-generational approach to education is essential to the success of this community.”
Since parents are the key to success in the homes, it is important to motivate them to be their best, said Smith.
“Many parents have dreams and ambitions locked inside of themselves. They are not always around the best people to help them unlock their potential,” Smith added. “Our goal is to be their coach. We see their potential, and help them set out on a plan. Because a dream without a plan is just a wish.”
“My husband (Darius) and I started a commercial cleaning and car detailing business in 2016,” said Ashley Mackin, of East St. Louis, who was in the first class. “This course helped us put paperwork to our business.” Darius Mackin also graduated from Connection to Success’s first professional development class.
Mackin enjoyed the course so much that she told her mother-in-law, Lisa Joe, and her sister-in-law, Rachel Gibbs. “This class was my first step in enhancing my career,” said Joe, of Cahokia, who was injured on her job after working 14 years as a psychiatric technician at St. Louis University Hospital.
“My next step is to become a nurse. It’s been a dream of mine for years,” she said. “This class has helped put things in perspective, and to prioritize my goals and plans. The best thing that I have done was step inside this classroom.”
“This class has brought everyone together as a family,” said Jane Brown, of Centreville, wiping tears from her eyes. “The class has helped us grow, and we build each other up. When Ashley first came here, she was really down. She was nothing like she is now, positive and full of hope.”
Extoling the virtues of Connections to Success’s professional development course are from left to right: Tierra Gibbs and Lisa Joe (both graduates of the course) and Gloria Hicks and Cheryl Washington.
Lisa Joe, holding ball of yarn, leads the exercise that identifies the nine life inventory subjects and discusses her plans for each category. In the background are Cheryl Washington (left) and Gloria Hicks (right).
Students of the second Connections to Success second class are shown with a few graduates of the class: L-R: Rachelle Gibbs, Angel Dotson, Jane Brown, Lisa Joe (graduate), Gloria Hicks, Cheryl Washington, Tierra Gibbs (graduate) and Ashley Mackin.