Yolanda Johnson had been thinking about going back to school. She was working as a Ward Clerk in a nursing home earning $8.50 an hour. She understood that she would have to make a change if she wanted her life to change. But how could she? She felt stuck financially. She was already having trouble making ends meet! Just how could she move forward?
She dreamt of having a career that could mean financial stability for her. She dreamt of a family, too. Yolanda felt that her exposure to the medical field and what she had learned from her work experience would prove helpful if she could pursue a nursing degree.
Yolanda knew that if she did nothing – then nothing would happen. So quite determined (but desperate), Yolanda entered the Ouachita Career Solutions Center on March 28, 2011. She was met by Tiffany Smith (PHOCAS Career Coordinator). Ms. Johnson explained to Tiffany that she was ready to make the “Big-Move” but just had no way of paying for schooling. Yolanda smiles now as she relates her discussion with Tiffany. She recalls that Tiffany told her that she had come at the right time and that she just might qualify for a program that could provide her with the assistance that she needed. Tiffany told her about PHOCAS.
Once in the PHOCAS program, her student liaison followed her progress and reminded her that attendance and good grades are what keeps one eligible for continued sponsorship and support! In time, PHOCAS staff began talking with her about job placement, always helping to keep her looking forward. Not long before Yolanda completed her clinical training, she was encouraged to apply for a position at a nursing home. She did and was hired, initially earning $11.25 per hour.
Yolanda graduated from the Licensed Practical Nursing Program in May of 2013. She is just as appreciative to this day as she was during her time in school. She readily expresses her gratitude to PHOCAS. She says that if it had not been for PHOCAS she would probably still be that Ward Clerk just dreaming of a better career. She is confident that she could not have enrolled in the practical nursing program without the help of this HPOG program. Additionally, she explained that the supportive services that she received allowed her to focus on her academics and to be successful. In particular, she mentioned transportation assistance, a supportive service that Yolanda declares allowed her to “Stay in school.” All of this help, blended with the added staff support, she really could have “NO EXCUSES” to quit. Yolanda further explained that if she had quit the program that she would not have had anyone but herself to blame and she simply refused to be the reason for her own disappointment. Yolanda says that she just cannot believe that she was blessed in this way. She added, “PHOCAS paid my graduation expenses and even when it came time to take state boards, PHOCAS came through for me again.”
After graduation Yolanda took the state board exam and passed on her first attempt. Then working at Ruston Nursing Home and Rehab Center for only a few months, she was promoted to Unit Nurse Supervisor.
When asked how her current job and life situation compare to her life before earning her nursing license, Yolanda is not shy when she proclaims, “Much better than I would have been without the help from PHOCAS.” As she smiles and shakes her head, she exuberantly declares that this HPOG Program truly helped her reach her dreams and gave her the help she needed, help that even her family was not able to provide. She expressed that many times as we visited with Yolanda. And remember, Yolanda mentioned that she dreamt of having children, but she had resolved that she would not do so until she was more stable, financially. That’s a dream come true for Yolanda, too. She now also has a beautiful little daughter.
Yolanda is presently, working at two locations, OctaPharma Plasma Center and Life Care Specialty Hospital, one full time and one PRN (as needed). She recently received an increase to $19.00/hour. She can now spend quality time with her daughter and provide for their needs and is no longer dependent on public assistance.
She has applied for the fast track LPN to RN program at Louisiana Delta Community College, Monroe, LA. She wants to earn her RN degree and work as a Medical Surgical Nurse. Her long-term goals involve earning credentials for Geriatric Psychology.
Yolanda is “Our Success Story.” We know of her success and see her earning a self-sustaining wage, and we are filled with appreciation for HPOG as well. Finally, Yolanda said, “Thank you [PHOCAS] for your dedication to people who cannot help themselves.”