From the Sterling Office
In March of 2020, Jeff came to the BEST, Inc. office in Sterling to inquire about getting assistance with the cost of the CDL program at Sauk Valley C.C.
Jeff is a military veteran who had been unemployed for over 6 months and had exhausted his benefits. He had sought employment but was unsuccessful in his efforts. He decided to pursue a career as a truck driver since he had some experience driving from his time in the military and because it would provide permanent, self-sufficient employment.
Since Jeff had limited income, BEST, Inc. was able to pay for the training costs and also provide him with mileage reimbursement for his trips back and forth to training.
Shortly after starting CDL training, Jeff’s class was put on hold due to the COVID19 pandemic. After 4 months of waiting for class to restart, he was finally able to continue training and eventually earned his CDL in July.
In August, Jeff was hired as an over-the-road driver by a trucking company in Muscatine, Iowa. He reports that he is enjoying his new job and the company he works for.
In August of 2019, Karie came to the BEST, Inc. office in Sterling to inquire about getting assistance with the cost of the medical assisting program at Midwest Technical Institute in Moline. She had recently lost her job working in customer service at a car dealership and wanted to transition to a new career that would offer stable employment and self-sufficient income.
Karie was eligible for WIOA services as a dislocated worker and was able to get help from BEST, Inc. with tuition assistance and mileage reimbursement. She drove back and forth to MTI four days a week for 9 months, which would not have been affordable for her without being reimbursed for her travel.
Karie did very well in her classes and graduated in June of 2020 and then passed the state boards in July of 2020 to become a certified medical assistant. Shortly thereafter, she was hired at CGH Medical Center.
On several occasions, Karie expressed her gratitude for the financial help and moral support she received from BEST, Inc. that helped her in her efforts to become a medical assistant.
In December of 2019, it was publically announced that the Compliance Signs was acquired by Justrite Safety Group and moving out of the area. They are having a rolling closure of their local facility due to it being moved to Florida. Due to COVID-19 we could not have a traditional rapid response so BEST and the Department of Commerce and Economic Development worked together to develop a Rapid Response strategy for the Compliance Sign employees that was in compliance with the state’s stay at home order. Staff worked with a number of employees to help them with resumes and exploring their options for training and Recently, BEST coordinated with Compliance Sign and Elkay to assist in helping fill the positions for their new lines at their Savanna and Lanark facilities. Making that connection allowed the two companies to work directly to assist those who will be losing their jobs at Compliance Sign in applying for jobs at Elkay. We feel this a good match and meets the needs of both the job seekers being dislocated at Compliance Signs and the needs of Elkay for experienced employees
Annie, Josie, Carter, Matt and Erin are all youth from Jo Daviess County who came to the program wanting assistance with earning their GED and transitioning to different employment opportunities and/or other training. One student has been hospitalized twice with mental health issues, one works 50 hours a week to support herself and her baby, one had to move into her grandparents house to help care for them, one works two jobs and another has been laid off twice and now drives 30 miles each way to work.
COVID has significantly slowed down the process for people to earn their GED. Testing centers closed for months and face-to-face tutoring had to change. But all five of these youth continue to work on their GED. They asked for packets to be mailed to them for more work to do at home because they don’t want to lose the progress they made and they met with us outside at their local libraries that were closed so they could access internet sitting in lawn chairs. They are stressed, uncertain about what’s going to happen next and sometimes they have little time or energy left to squeeze in fractions and review sentence structure but they do it anyway.
What’s very impressive is that four out of the five youth have only one or two tests left to take. Their perseverance and success is in large part due to the work ethic that exists in Jo Daviess County as well as the many local organizations that have helped and continue to support them as they move forward.
Cody was a reverse referral from Badge a minit for an On the job training program. Cody had worked several part time minimum wages jobs to try and make ends meet to support his child and wife. With the help of the funds for reimbursement to the employer Cody is now working on a career in CNC working full time and making 18.00 an hour.
Lastly, BEST, Inc received an Opioid Grant right before the Pandemic hit. This grant is for unemployed or under employed individuals who have been impacted either themselves or someone in the family with the Opioid Crisis. Stacy came to BEST with an amazing story that has touched many. Stacy grew up in a home where both parents misused medication by self-medicating and for recreational use. Her mother is currently 5 years into an 8 year sentence for aggravated DUI and her father past away in 2016 from unhealthy choices. Her youngest brother passed away last year from an overdose and her oldest brother has been struggling with an addition his entire life. Stacy had seen firsthand what this crisis was all about. Luke Tomsha from Perfectly Flawed knew Stacy and referred her to BEST as she was underemployed since the Pandemic hit. Stacy started working with Perfectly Flawed with the funds from this grant and is currently enrolled as a Certified Recovery Support Specialist. Stacy said she believes everyone deserves a chance to be who they were meant to be and she wants to be part of that support system to help them.
Abbey is from Bureau County and came to the Princeton BEST Office in November 2018. Abbey had been working as a CNA at a local Nursing Home and wanted to follow her path in becoming an RN. Abbey and I went through the intake process and prepared her for the Spring ’19 Semester. She was doing well in the RN program at IVCC, and had completed that Semester with good grades. Then, as Abbey was preparing for her Fall Semester, she started to have some real struggles in her personal life that was effecting her schooling. Abbey decided in August of 2019 to take a break and work on her mental health. During that time frame, she and I stayed in constant communication monthly. In December of 2019, Abbey was thinking about changing Career Paths, I asked her to meet with me and talk about where that Path would take her, what her expectations were. Abbey did her homework and after lots of consideration, decided that was not the area she wanted to be in either. Abbey then met with me in February 2020 to discuss her plan on enrolling into the LPN program at IVCC. She had decided that RN was not for her but still wanted more than her CNA certificate. Abbey entered the LPN program in May and completed the course on August 6, 2020. Abbey loved the LPN program! She took her State Boards on 9/1/2020 and has PASSED! She is still working with the local Nursing Home that she had started with at the beginning of our Journey and so appreciative of where she has been able to go with BEST services by her side.
Maria was referred to BEST, Inc. by another local workforce area. She had been accepted into Kishwaukee College’s Registered Nursing program and was looking for assistance. She inquired about our services and was determined to be eligible as she was receiving SNAP (food stamp) benefits.
Maria attended classes and clinical four days per week. Most of her clinicals were in the Rockford area so she spent a lot of time driving back and forth. She is a single parent so this was time away from her daughter. She had a support system to help her whether it was her family or friends.
During her last semester of training, her Medical/Surgical instructor wasn’t there for the first three weeks of class. The class had to be learned on-line and basically self-taught. She was worried she wouldn’t pass due to her test scores and not having her instructor. When her instructor returned her test scores improved. Her instructor encouraged her to remain in the class as she thought she would pass.
Then, COVID-19 changed everything.
Her classroom and clinical training went to doing webcam through Zoom. Maria did not like this way of learning as she was a hands-on learner. Even though there were many obstacles due to COVID-19 Maria successfully completed her training program. She was inducted into the Honor Society with a 3.09 GPA.
Maria graduated from Kishwaukee College in May, 2020 with an AAS degree in Registered Nursing. She passed her State boards and was issued her Registered Nursing license effective 6/24/20. She is working at Bethany Rehabilitation & Health Care Center as a Registered Nurse earning $26.50/hour. She continues to further her education to obtain her BSN.
Jamie came to BEST looking for assistance to help get his CDL through the colleges Truck Driving training program – he was eligible under the adult program as he was receiving food stamps. After successful completion of the training and a short job search he is working as a driver making over $45,000 a year.
Travis also came to us for Truck Driver training, he was a dislocated worker receiving unemployment insurance. He too completed successfully and is now making $30.00 an hour close to home.
Just as an update for those of you who were at the County Board meeting last year. Our success story from then was a woman going to school for her BSN at Methodist and had a lot of obstacles to overcome. I am happy to report she completed her training this past spring and is currently working at the Neuroscience Intensive Care department at OSF in Peoria.
Michael and his family moved to Lee County after living in Rockford. He had not been in school for almost a year and was unable to attend the local high school due to his low number of school credits. He was referred to the Center for Change program for credit recovery through the Lee/Ogle/Whiteside Regional Office of Education. He excelled in the program and completed two years of school in one year with perfect attendance. He has done so well that he will likely graduate a semester early.
Michael has a lifelong passion for automotive tinkering and can often be found working on cars and other motors. School staff saw his passion and knew he would be a good candidate to participate in the Automotive Technology program at Whiteside Area Career Center (WACC). However, Michael’s home school was unable to pay for needed tuition and fees. WACC and Center 4 Change reached out to BEST Inc. to ask if BEST would be able to partner with them in providing Michael the needed funding for tuition and required supplies/fees. BEST met with Michael and determined Michael was an excellent candidate for their program and agreed to the partnership. The program had already started at WACC so the three partners and Michael worked quickly to complete the needed requirements, secure transportation and make scheduling changes. Michael is appreciative of the chance to learn more about his passion and his instructor says he is very pleased with Michael’s performance so far especially given his late start. This is a new partnership that we see continuing in the future.
Shannon came into the program 2 years ago. She was a single mother on public assistance. Shannon had been taking one class at a time with the goal of becoming an RN. She was accepted into the RN program and that is when she was introduced to BEST. During the last 2 years Shannon has worked diligently on her coursework and worked every weekend as a CNA to make ends meet. Shannon recently passed the NCLEX and just accepted a position at CGH in the Emergency Room Department.