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Aroostook Community Matters - The Higher Opportunity for Pathways to Employment (HOPE) Program

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 7:21 PM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -

Wilkens: “Our mission is to help parents and caretakers of minor children, who have low incomes, to stay in school.”

Robert: The Higher Opportunity for Pathways to Employment, or HOPE Program, had its starting roots back in December of 2016. In recognition of the struggles often faced by parents and caretakers who wish to continue pursuing higher education and learning -- the Maine Department of Health and Human Services built the HOPE Program and launched it back in January of this year.

Wilkens: “We know that parents who are in post-secondary education, they’re at higher risk of encountering bumps in the road that then might derail their education.”

Robert: To help counter some of those unexpected challenges often faced by adult parents students, personal supporters like Teri Mann, a HOPE Program Navigator, go beyond the financial assistance aspect -- guiding and supporting students every step along the way.

Mann: “We have many students who have come into the HOPE Program and maybe it is just that help with books or help with childcare that they’re really needing to get themselves rolling. But then all of a sudden things start to snowball -- the car breaks down, the daycare falls through. How do I resolve all of those issues and still maintain school for myself? And that’s where I feel the Navigators role becomes most important. So that that student feels not only the support financially, but the support of a voice behind them, encouraging them.”

Robert: Kira Schools, an NMCC Nursing student and recently accepted HOPE Program participant, mentions the benefits of that continued support, guidance, and encouragement -- and how it’s leading her and many others through the HOPE Program down a path to obtain their goals.

Schools: “I’ve been a CNA most of my life, and I wanted to upgrade to being a nurse. And I just never really found the time, I guess. And then somebody mentioned the HOPE Program. They’re paying for me to have my daughter -- my youngest to have childcare, because she’s only going for a couple hours to school. They paid for my uniforms, so I can go to nursing -- so I can go to my clinicals and my classes. They paid for all of my books. Like that stuff -- right there, alone is stressful enough -- it makes you want to not even think about going back to school. I didn’t realize how much exactly they were going to help me with. And, I don’t even have to worry about anything. I just got to get my stuff from them, and go to class. And I’m so excited. Like I just can’t wait. And the fact that they help me, even push me even further -- like I’m gonna -- this is going to happen. And I’m just grateful for them. --Try, just at least attempt to try to get into the program. Because the least that’s going to happen is, you know, you don’t qualify. But once you qualify, you are -- it’s amazing! I just -- that’s all I can say -- amazing!”

Robert Grimm, News Source 8.

[Interview:

--Sheri Wilkens, HOPE Program Manager | Maine Dept. of Health & Human Services;

--Teri Mann, HOPE Navigation Services Coordinator | Maine Educational Opportunity Center;

--Kira Schools, NMCC Nursing Student | HOPE Program Participant]

Aired: September 17, 2020

Copyright 2020 WAGM. All rights reserved.

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