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With fewer than one doctor per 1,000 people, Eritrea could use the kind of medical skills Weyni Hailemariam is learning as a college-level Atterbury Job Corps student.
The Red Sea coastal nation in Africa, which neighbors Ethiopia, is about the size of Indiana but has more than 6 million people. The majority of those are 24 years old or younger because of high birth rates and poor life expectancy.
Hailemariam, 19, who wants to be a nurse and eventually a doctor, considers herself on her way to helping bring change to Eritrea, her home country, thanks to the education she is receiving by way of a 10-year partnership between Job Corps and Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus/Franklin.
Through its Advanced Career Training program, the partnership allows students like Hailemariam, who have finished the federally funded Job Corps program in not more than two years, to continue on to Ivy Tech for a third year on the federal government’s dime.
Local officials with Job Corps and Ivy Tech said the collaboration is giving the brightest students of limited incomes the means to make the most of their lives. Companies get more of what they need for a qualified workforce, and the economy gets a boost because of higher wages.
Workers with associate’s degrees earn an average of $130 more a week than those with only high school diplomas, and more than $300 more a week than those without diplomas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Corps neighbors the Camp Atterbury military base in Edinburgh but has nothing to do with the military. Instead, it provides free education, free room and board in dorms, free meals and free transportation to and from the campus for people ages 16-24 who have a financial need for the assistance and who have already exhausted applications for Pell Grants and other financial aid.
That means there is no expense for the roughly 400 students who attend the Edinburgh site, just as there is no expense for anyone who attends any of the 125 Job Corps sites in the country. The partnership with Ivy Tech extends that free education for a third year to 12 students at a time, continuing the perks of a government-paid education that saves students $116 per credit hour.
Meanwhile, students can find employment — maybe in their field of study — that allows them to save virtually every dime they earn so they can perhaps extend their college experiences to earn associate’s degrees or transfer to four-year colleges for bachelor’s degrees.
Aleisha Hennsley, Advanced College Training coordinator for Atterbury Job Corps, said only the best-performing Job Corps students get to move on to the advanced program at Ivy Tech. They have to maintain a 2.0 GPA (“C” average) to stay in the program or risk being removed to make room for someone else.
“It’s very competitive,” Hennsley said. “When there’s an opening, it can come down to just one little thing that puts one student over another to go into the advanced program.”
Hailemariam is making the most of her third-year opportunity. She obtained a high school diploma and completed career technical training as a certified nursing assistant at Job Corps, and she is working on her two-year degree at Ivy Tech to become a registered nurse.
She works as a certified nursing assistant during 12-hour shifts Saturday and Sunday at Silver Oaks Health Campus, 2011 Chapa Drive in Columbus, where she cares for elderly residents.
She plans to continue her education at her own expense with the long-term goal of becoming a doctor. Her dream at that point would be to return to her African home so she could help provide health care to citizens.
Janet Sharp, an academic adviser at Ivy Tech — Columbus/Franklin, said reduced funding from the federal government has made spots in the Advanced College Training program more valuable than ever. She said the federal government paid for 34 students a few years ago but reduced that number to 24 and now to 12.
Those who get through the program and receive degrees are every bit as qualified as those who have no Job Corps affiliation, said Randy Proffitt, executive director of marketing and communications for Ivy Tech.
“All of our graduates become productive citizens,” Proffitt said. “They’re a benefit to the community.”
IUPUC has no direct link with Job Corps in the program but sees the benefit Job Corps students bring to the economy.
Susie Blizard, the school’s director of recruitment and admissions, said IUPUC representatives go to Job Corps once a month to speak with students about the benefits of college and what students can do after they graduate.
The representatives also talk about financial aid, scholarships, grants, loans and other factors that could be road blocks to the students if they don’t apply for them.
“Job Corp is in our community, and they have great people and great kids,” Blizard said. “They’re appreciative and respectful, and they deserve a chance to succeed.”
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