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Program offers guidance toward graduation

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Ruth Borsheim, Career Navigator, left, gets a hug from Amber Massaglia during graduation ceremonies for the Fast TRAC Administrative Clinic Assistant program. The program is made possible through the Career Pathways and Bridges2Healthcare grant programs.

Sunny Jones had to close her restaurant in 2008. Amber Massaglia had to navigate being a single mother. And Lana Nour has only been in the United States one year.

All three women faced barriers to furthering their education — financial, linguistic, familial — but on Tuesday night, they graduated alongside 31 of their classmates in advanced hospital nursing, administrative clinical assistant and certified nursing assistant programs.

The program is a collaboration of Rochester Community Technical College, Hawthorne Education Center and other groups and receives funding from FastTRAC and Bridges2Healthcare programs. Minnesota FastTRAC helps local organizations offer adult career pathways programs in high-demand career fields, and Bridges2Healthcare aims to help first-generation immigrants, non-native English speakers, and learners who have not found success within traditional education settings acquire skills for high-demand careers in health care.

Classes are offered through Hawthorne and RCTC, and career navigators help students along the way with everything from recruiting and program selection to child care and transportation.

"I work with this group of students from start to finish through their program," said Career Navigator Nicole Widsted.


Administrative clinical assistant graduate Massaglia said her navigator helped with things like how to pay rent or where to find day care.

"These are things that make it hard to succeed," she said.

The program works to address those obstacles, working with students at Hawthorne to then prepare them for courses at RCTC.

"I think one of the biggest things is believing in themselves, that they can do it," said Angela Meyer, a Hawthorne Education Center Instructor for Healthcare Programs. Additionally, Meyer said, students must work to find the time for classes and maintain financial stability for themselves — and sometimes their families.

"Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending," Jones said in her speech. She completed the advanced hospital nursing assistant program.

"It has been very beneficial to me, so I'm very thankful," Jones said.

Many who graduate from the program go on to find jobs, pursue further education or both.

A year ago, Amara Azeen graduated from the administrative clinical assistant program with help from Bridges2Healthcare. She is now working at Mayo Clinic and is pursuing further education in trauma counseling.


"It was an amazing experience, to be honest. It was life-changing. I would say it's one of the biggest achievements I've had," Azeen said.

In Pakistan, Azeen studied computer science. But after moving to the U.S. she wasn't certain where to start and couldn't transfer credits.

"I struggled to find the perfect schooling or find where I should start," Azeen said. She spent two or three years trying to figure it out, and then she went to Hawthorne — "and everything started falling in place," she said.

The resounding theme for many is that without this program, they wouldn't have had the same educational opportunity.

"We have people from all different walks of life, from all different backgrounds," Meyer said. "It's kind of our world all in one little section."

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