Recent graduate Beatrice Rogers says the Operation Fresh Start Healthcare Academy job training program helped open the door to career opportunities
Beatrice Rogers realized she was meant to pursue a career in health care after her grandmother became ill. She wasn’t fazed by some of the outbursts her grandma had as she was dealing with dementia. She was interested in helping her heal and felt that she could do that for others, too.
“That was my first go around with actually nursing someone to health — actually helping someone be their best selves as they’re declining because she was on hospice,” says Beatrice.
Beatrice tried to pass her CNA licensure exam three times, but was unsuccessful. She struggled to achieve this credential necessary to start her career because she was dealing with an unimaginable amount of trauma for anyone to experience, let alone a woman in her early 20s.
Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Beatrice lost four brothers to gun violence in one year. Her mother wanted a new start, so they moved to Madison. A few years later, she had another brother pass away.
“You know, losing siblings that used to be in the house with you… I went down a dark path,” says Beatrice. “I detached from the world. I let go. I was just living, and I was content with that.”
In 2020, she found out from a cousin about the Strive Healthcare program at Operation Fresh Start (now called Healthcare Academy). Healthcare Academy participants receive support from OFS as they take a Nursing Assistant course at Madison College, complete hands-on training, learn about different health careers, and gain job readiness skills. OFS covers the cost of the course, materials including books and a uniform, plus the CNA state licensure exam. Participants also receive a living allowance and continuous support from OFS staff who are invested in their success.
“I would not have been able to become a CNA without this program,” says Beatrice. “I felt like I could breathe because I had the financial stability. That’s a big, big thing.”
In addition to eliminating the financial burden that comes with beginning a healthcare career, Strive Healthcare sets participants up for career advancement by addressing barriers to entry into healthcare careers and support overcoming hurdles that that college students face in general.
Beatrice first enrolled in the program when the COVID-19 pandemic was just ramping up. The Madison College Nursing Assistant course was forced to move to a virtual format. Due to the challenges of online learning, each Strive Healthcare participant was dropped from the class.
But Beatrice did not let this – or any of the other outside barriers she faced – stop her. She returned to the program in the fall of 2021.
Support from a 'lightworker'
While struggling with depression, not wanting to get out of bed and losing her housing, Beatrice says Strive Healthcare Program Manager Jasmine Banks provided her the tough love and support she desperately needed to keep moving forward.
“Believe me when I say, Beatrice had plenty of reasons to simply give up,” says Jasmine. “We had a conversation she references quite often, where we discussed that as unfair as it is – in life she’s always going to go through something. Figuring out how to continue on is key.”
Jasmine says her job is to be a mentor, to make sure young people don’t fall through the cracks and to consistently show up for the young people in her programs. She does everything from helping young adults navigate requirements like completing a background check, health screening and ACCUPLACER test – to reminding them to complete assignments – to being their emotional support system. The impact she has on her participants is clear in the description that Beatrice gives:
“Miss Jasmine is a lightworker. She’s one of those people who God is like, ‘Okay I put her in your life. You utilize her because that’s what she’s here for and that’s what she’s meant to do.’ A lightworker is someone who’s bringing joy, who’s bringing peace, who’s bringing salvation and help,” says Beatrice. “That’s what she did for me, and I know that’s exactly what she’ll do for the next person.”
Starting her healthcare journey
Beatrice completed the Madison College course and her clinical hours in December 2021 and passed the state exam to earn her CNA licensure in January 2022. She now works for UnityPoint Health – Meriter.
“When I finally passed [the CNA exam], I was in shock and awe. I got this done, and it wasn’t by myself. I had a team of people – my social worker while I was homeless, my therapist and Miss Jasmine. It was a team for me.”
“After going through so much, I just detached from the world. But one day, I got tired of abusive relationships. I got tired of being depressed about losing brothers and being like ‘poor me,’” says Beatrice. “This program is that kickstart. It’s that morning coffee or Red Bull or Mountain Dew that wakes you up. This program is not only investing in yourself – it’s investing in your future. It’s investing in your stepping stone, investing in your nursing career, and getting into you a totally different income bracket.”
Beatrice is continuing her education in the Madison College Pre-Health Science Program and hopes to become a pediatric doctor.