Olga gathered her courage, took control and now is caring for others in a career that helps her and her husband support their five young children.
As a high school senior, Olga, along with her Ukrainian immigrant parents and siblings, moved into the Twin Cities metropolitan area. In the school transfer, she lost two academic credits, which left her short for graduation. Soon she married and started a family. They were receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and struggling financially when Olga decided she needed to transform her anger over not having graduated and constructively set goals for herself.
She enrolled in Metro North Adult Basic Education, a free program that helps adults develop basic skills and earn their high school diplomas. In just two months, Olga completed her studies and got her GED. “Once I put my mind to it, I finished as fast as I could by taking night classes, testing out and developing my portfolio,” she said. Olga’s Adult Basic Education instructor called her a model student and encouraged her to pursue her goal of becoming a medical assistant.
The instructor introduced Olga to the Anoka County Health Care Pathways program.
Launched in January 2010, FastTRAC now has hundreds of students enrolled across Minnesota in one of 34 unique training paths toward careers that pay a living wage. Experts guide the multi-agency partnership among the Minnesota Departments of Human Services, Education, Employment and Economic Development; Minnesota State Colleges and Universities; Greater Twin Cities United Way; and others.
FastTRAC is demonstrating effectiveness in improving educational outcomes for adults by integrating basic skills education and career-specific training via Adult Basic Education and college instructors teaching together, focusing on attaining a credential, targeting high-demand occupations and meeting the needs of worker-learners.
Olga’s experience caring for her brother before he died from cancer inspired her and she got excited about her future. Her mother helped with child care and her family supported her. Clinical courses gave Olga the hands-on contact she missed having with her brother and patients energized her. Working through the Nursing Assistant Certificate program, Olga finished in just three months, receiving her license, immediately accepting an offer to work in a group home, after which Olga moved on to a home health position at Allina.
Olga said she has never been happier. The program opened many doors for her that she would never have had the courage or resources to open on her own. “My teachers stood by my side. They prepared me and didn't let me fail,” said Olga.
She encourages others to set goals and reach them through FastTRAC. “I am so grateful to the people who helped me at Metro North Adult Basic Education and the [Anoka County Health Care] Pathways program,” commented Olga. “Now I'm helping others and, by caring for people, I am finding that I am getting the care I need back.”