Ibero program helps Hispanics train for careers

ROCHESTER — Marina Coleman dreams of becoming a pediatrician someday.

For now, she plans to get her feet wet in the health field by working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Coleman also is a participant in Ibero-American Action League’s Emerging and Transitional Training program for Hispanics who are young or have few job skills.

In October Ibero received a $270,000 grant in from the state Department of Labor to create the program in collaboration with the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center, which is providing tuition-free vocational career training. Participants receive funding for books, uniforms and testing fees as well as resume preparation and interview coaching, said program coordinator Liliana Crane.

"It’s helpful to me," with the cost of the extras required by the CNA funded through the Ibero program, Coleman said. "I’m not currently employed. … It’s an excellent way for me to stay in the (CNA) program."

During a break from studying for the state CNA exam that was to take place the week of Feb. 22, Coleman explained how she initially was taking prerequisite courses for the four-year nursing program at Monroe Community College in partnership with such area colleges as St. John Fisher. She was on a waiting list to be officially enrolled in that program when a professor told her about Ibero’s initiative. She learned she qualified to take classes at the REOC tuition free and switched educational directions, said Coleman, a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School.

"It’s excellent, a perfect way for Hispanics to get into the nursing field," she said, noting that she plans to work for awhile then re-enroll in MCC’s nursing program down the road. "You have help if you don’t have money or way to pay for (materials) … And they (Ibero staff) help you find a job."

About 112 people are currently enrolled in the program and more than half of those students are receiving the kind of vocational training that Coleman has completed, Crane said. Courses are offered in such fields as licensed practical nursing, early childhood care, medical secretary and surgical technology and are taught at the REOC’s location in the former Sibley building in Rochester and the SUNY Brockport center’s main location at 305 Andrews St.

After Ibero received its grant last fall, Crane said that the agency partnered with REOC because it was a perfect fit, as the center covered the tuition and Ibero could cover the books and materials. Ibero staff then went to community organizations, churches, stores and temporary employment agencies to spread the word about the new program. Crane said that she believes the agency will find a way for the program to continue even if the state grant is not renewed.

"The idea is to help as many people as we can," she said. "There is a need for this especially in the Latino community. They need to learn the language, get into vocational training and get a job."

Other participants in Ibero’s program are enrolled in English as a second language classes or GED courses at Ibero’s 817 E. Main St. offices, Crane added. Program staff members also are working on pharmaceutical technician and green technology courses that will begin later in the spring through a distance-learning opportunity with the nonprofit Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network, she noted.

Only low-income residents qualify for Ibero’s worker program, Crane said.

"They (low-income residents) come with a lot of issues," she noted. "We have to advocate for them … and keep them focused on the goal, which is education."

The program has on staff four advocates who check in with participants weekly to ensure everything’s going well and arrange for clothing for interviews, transportation and child care as needed, Crane explained.

"We help eliminate any bumps they have in the road," she said. "The idea is not to miss any classes."

José Ortiz, who represents one of the participants in transition from a career in retail to the health field as a certified nursing assistant, said that the program is providing the Latino community with a great opportunity.

"It helps a lot for people who are not financially stable," he said, noting that his part-time retail job only netted him $150 a week. Ortiz hoped that he passed his state exams, which he took last month, and find work at a local hospital.

"This (program) gives people who are low income a better chance to get a career established," he added.

*********************PHOTO: CREDIT AND CAPTION GO IN FIELDS ON EXTENDED ATTRIBUTES TAB********************** EMC photo by Tamara Tirado Marina Coleman (left) and José Ortíz received grants from Ibero-American Action League’s Emerging & Transitional Workers Training Program, which helped them become certified nursing assistants.

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