Everyone has different motivations for the career path that they pursue. For Alicia, it was her father.

“I found out I was pregnant when I was 19.” A young soon-to-be first-time mom, Alicia needed to grow up faster than most of her peers.

Through a federal workforce development program that assists young adults, including young mothers, Alicia was able to find support. At the workNet DuPage Career Center she gained access to no-cost resources such as career development professionals, internships, and job placement assistance.

When thinking about her future, her past and present weighed heavily on her mind. For the last fourteen years, Alicia’s father had been on dialysis and was suffering from kidney failure. Memories and thoughts of her Dad played in her head, like the time she was 12 and her father lost his balance in a parking lot, hitting his head on the tire of their car. Seeing him lying on the ground, she was scared and also overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness. She never wanted to feel that way again. Now years later she resolved to both empower herself and learn how to care for her ailing father by pursuing a career in healthcare. Her real-life experience set in motion her journey toward that end.

With the help of a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grant, Alicia decided to enter phlebotomy training. She juggled the demands of school with the demands of pregnancy. Just days before her test, Alicia was rushed to the hospital to have an emergency C section. The joy of her newborn girl was interrupted when a week later her gall bladder had to be removed.

While there was relief when she recovered and completed the training, with little work experience at the time, she found it was difficult to find employment.

She needed to sustain her growing family. She quickly realized she would need multiple certifications to improve her chances of working in the healthcare field. Now fully committed to a career in healthcare, she availed herself of additional support from workNet and enrolled in a certified medical assistant program at Midwestern Career College.

Alicia (left) with her mother and daughter

With a newborn baby, she was working to pay the bills and going to school. During the program, she learned anatomy, physiology, and essential knowledge including trigger words that enable healthcare workers to make split second decisions that can mean the difference between life and death.

While Alicia progressed in the program, her father was slowly getting worse. In the span of a month and a half he was hospitalized three times and finally passed away.

With her beloved father gone, the urge to drop out set in. She recalls what she was thinking at the time: “I didn’t want to continue. I was ready to quit without him there. I went into it for him and now he’s not here. I was really close to my father. He wasn’t at my graduation and I didn’t want to attend without him there. It was really hard but my mom and everyone at workNet was really supportive and told me not to give up.”

“I found out I was pregnant when I was 19,” Alicia said.

“I was really close to my father. He wasn’t at my graduation and I didn’t want to attend without him there. It was really hard but my mom and everyone at workNet was really supportive and told me not to give up.”

After graduation, Alicia received support with her job search from the staff at workNet DuPage. She took part in the center’s hallmark Boot Camp, a series of workshops crafted by Manager of Job Seeker Services, Jim Fergle. Serving as “career doctor” and life coach, Mr. Fergle and his team provide tips and tricks of the trade to successfully navigate a job search. Participants learn how to craft a resume with impact and interviewing skills. In February 2018, everything from her past and the training she acquired came together and Alicia landed a job at Advocate Immediate Care as a Certified Medical Assistant (“CMA.”)

At any given moment you might find Alicia in her new role calculating medications, giving injections, administering EKGs, drawing blood, taking vital signs, calling in prescriptions, running tests and interacting with patients.

What does she like about being a CMA? “Everything” she says. “If I can make a difference in at least one person’s life in a day, then I’ve done my job. If I can make that cranky person laugh, then I’ve made a difference.”

It’s that professional, empathetic understanding and mix of technical skills that makes Alicia a valued colleague on the job. In a collaborative environment there’s mutual respect among the doctors, RNs and staff; her initial phlebotomy training has proved very useful, as Alicia is often asked by nurses for her expertise.

Alicia got a job as a Medical Assistant at Advocate Immediate Care and is studying to be a Registered Nurse

Her advice to others: “Don’t give up –especially if you have kids. The benefits are excellent, and I enjoy being able to tell what’s wrong with you and helping people.”

That thirst for knowledge has motivated Alicia to continue her education. Through her employer’s tuition reimbursement program, she signed up to take classes at night to advance her career and become a registered nurse. The program began this past January. Alicia has come a long way since she started that phlebotomy training.

Although her dad is no longer with her, Alicia honors him every day by helping others.

Need Help Paying for Job Training or Certifications like Alicia?

A WIOA grant can pay for up to $10,000 of training.

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