“I have faced all kinds of obstacles in trying to start my life over here in Virginia,” says Rappahannock Community College student La’Vita Smith, “but the team here has helped me to get over and around every one of them with a smile on my face. I would recommend this program to anyone who is trying to move forward in their careers.”
Smith is talking about the POWER program (Providing Opportunities through Work, Education, and Resources) available through RCC’s Office of Career and Transition Services (OCATS). At the time she was referred to the program, in January 2014, she had recently moved to Lancaster County with her thirteen-year-old son. New to the area, Smith wanted to improve her circumstances as soon as possible, and she knew that her first step should be acquiring more education.
OCATS career coaches helped Smith to complete online career assessments at Virginia Education Wizard and “CareerScope,” and discussed various career pathways and education options that were available to her. After attending a number of life skills and work readiness workshops, she earned both a Career Readiness Certificate and a Customer Service credential recognized by the National Retail Federation and a Career Readiness Certificate (an assessment-based credential providing a uniform measure of key workplace skills). OCATS helped her to enroll in a nurse aide career studies certificate program, as well as steering her to the Virginia On-RAMP program, which provided tuition funding. In May 2014, Smith completed the nurse aide curriculum, passed the state licensing exam, and obtained a job at a local caregiving agency.
“I thought [the workshops] were a waste of my time,” says Smith, “as I have been working since I was sixteen years old. I would say that I didn’t need anyone to teach me how to get or to keep a job. Well, I was wrong. Taking those workshops has helped me to get on track to something that I have always wanted… a career. Throughout the years I have worked many jobs” — some of them where she was unhappy or had no opportunity for advancement — “but I have never had a career.” Though she had already heard of some of the tips offered in the workshops, others were new to her. “We should never think that we already know everything,” she says, “because even if nine out of ten of the topics [are familiar], that one new thing may be the one you needed to succeed. It’s never too late to learn.”
“Having a good learning environment makes learning a lot easier,” Smith adds. “I am so thankful that I chose to come to RCC’s Kilmarnock Center. It has been such a wonderful experience for me. The RCC family has been a good support system for me” —giving her encouragement and advice with not only career but also personal goals.
“La’Vita is overcoming difficult life circumstances and building a better life,” says OCATS career coach Betsy Witt. “She is an amazing example of courage.” Witt notes that Smith continues to work with RCC’s career coaches in order to advance her career, and plans to further her education with an RCC associate degree. She hopes eventually to become a social worker, so that she may help others as she has been helped.