Bernadette Charles-Sanon’s dream came true when the Cambridge Community Learning Center (CLC) offered a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) training for English Language Learners this year in partnership with the Academy for Healthcare Training. While studying English at the CLC, she had been entreating staff to provide this program so she could progress from her work as a home health aide. When funding became available through grants from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Commonwealth Corporation, she was excited to enroll along with others.
“There are a lot of elderly in Cambridge,” Charles-Sanon said, “and I want to help them.”
In the four-month cycle that ended in June, 16 students completed the course despite the intensive schedule: two nights a week in Cambridge learning English and math and two nights at the Academy in Malden learning clinical skills. The teachers remarked on the diversity of students, who included two men and 14 women from six countries and with varied educational backgrounds.
Program Coordinator Pat Murphy noted that they “come from cultures of caring, especially for the elderly. It’s a task that they do with joy and compassion.”
Math teacher Sally Waldron praised the students for their work ethic and dependability as well as their support and respect for each other. “They really became a group.”
The program gives participants the chance to enter the field of healthcare, an area with many opportunities and an improvement over their current jobs. In addition to the academic and skills training, the program teaches its students job search skills. In collaboration with the Cambridge Employment Program, the program also offers assistance with job placement. After experience as a CNA, some graduates plan to study for other health careers, such as nursing or occupational therapy.
Haimanot Temesgen was walking by the Community Learning Center on Western Avenue with her 2 year old son when she saw a sign advertising free English classes. She wasn’t sure she could manage a program with her young child, but she decided to stop in. “It was a life-changing decision,” she said. “Another door opened in my life—to give me a skill and a future. Caring for people—that’s what I want to give my life to.”
The Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) training for English Language Learners program will be offered again in the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2018. For more information, call Pat Murphy at 617-349-6365 or visit the Community Learning Center at 5 Western Avenue, Cambridge. The Community Learning Center is the Adult Basic Education program of the City of Cambridge Department of Human Service Programs.