FORT WORTH — Just over a year ago, 25-year-old Jekeisha McGilveary hit bottom.The mother of two young children, McGilveary had just lost her job and had nowhere to go with her small family. “I wasn’t on housing [assistance] or anything. I was doing it by myself. I didn’t want any help,” McGilveary said, eyes filling with tears. But in early 2012, McGilveary did what she never wanted to do — she asked for help. In May 2012, McGilveary moved into Butler Place, one of Fort Worth’s public housing locations, and went straight to the Fort Worth Housing Authority’s office to look for help getting a steady job.She found it in the form of a free certified nurse aide (CNA) course provided by the housing authority. Just a few weeks after she finished her night course and passed the national exam in January, she had a part-time job in home health. Now, McGilveary plans to become a certified medication aide and has completed the free computer skills classes offered by the housing authority so she can also work full-time as an administrative assistant. “I have been through a lot with my kids; , they may not understand, but I feel like they know momma is trying,” McGilveary said of her 2-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. “In the long run, I want them to know that they are going to be successful and they can go further than what I am going.” High graduation rateSonya Barnette, resident services administrator for the housing authority, said the authority started the CNA training program in 2009 because of the demand for workers in the field. The housing authority, she said, offers vocational programs to help residents progress and eventually get out of public housing.While the GED course, résumé-building class, computer classes and skills-building course offered by the housing authority are available to all Fort Worth residents, the CNA training program is open only to public housing residents. Barnette said the waiting list for the class is consistently 100 people long, since there is a maximum of 12 students per class. The 100 hours of combined classroom work and training to become a CNA typically costs between $750 and $1,000, but it is free for the housing authority residents.About 99 percent of the students complete the course and pass the CNA exam, Barnette said. Most find jobs within a couple weeks. “It is about creating opportunities for our residents to move toward self-sufficiency, creating economic independence for them and moving them to the next level of higher education,” Barnette said. Motivation to succeedIn November, the housing authority was approved by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services to become one of five testing centers in the Metroplex that can administer the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program exam. It cost about $3,500 to put the testing center together because of the supplies needed, but Barnette said the cost was worthwhile.Now, the public housing residents don’t have a long wait before they can take the test and don’t face obstacles like transportation in getting to a testing center.In addition, the housing authority offers the test to people across the Metroplex for $10. McGilveary hopes to be out of public housing in a year, with savings, a backup plan and a blueprint for continuing her education, but she is thankful for the support system the housing authority provided. “As long as you have someone who cares, it makes you more motivated because you have somebody backing you up all the way,” McGilveary said.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter: @catyhirst