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From sewing to nursing: Career Pathways program offers adult students opportunities at Minnesota West

Joanna Villeda Pedroza is a Certified Nursing Assistant and completed Medication Administration training through Career Pathway’s programs. Submitted Photo

MARSHALL — One day as Joanna Villeda Pedroza worked in a sewing factory near Marshall, she realized she needed to switch careers. 

“I didn’t feel appreciated, and I didn’t feel like I was making a difference,” she said. “I felt like I was just a number.”

She tried to become a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) after she graduated from high school, but had to drop out of her class at a Minnesota West learning center in Marshall due to pregnancy complications.

A few years later, her teachers were still hoping she would come back to finish her training.

“My sister told me, ‘They keep on asking you to come back, you know,’” Pedroza said.

Pedroza decided to continue her education and passed the course in 2014. Shortly afterward she obtained her Trained Medication Administration (TMA) certification, enabling her to administer medication to patients at hospitals and hospices.

She now works at Avera Morningside Heights Care Center and at a hospice, helping patients perform tasks such as showering and eating.

Pedroza hopes to someday continue her education and become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) to help doctors order medication from manufacturers.

“I don’t want another job — I love my job,” she said.

Pedroza’s CNA courses are among many others offered at Minnesota West. The classes are offered through the college’s Southwest Minnesota Career Pathways Program to help students obtain certifications in degrees in industries such as welding and interpreting. The program has been offered through the college since 2003 and lowers costs by teaming up with private organizations to train for jobs in high demand.

The program focuses on training unemployed, under-employed or under-prepared adults, said Dawn Regnier, director of customized training and continuing education at Minnesota West, in an email. It leads them to stable, long-term employment.

The program has an 85 percent success rate, said Career Pathway Program Navigator Annette Waterman.

“We give crucial training for what employers want their employees to know,” she said, adding that all certificates offered are recognized nationally by each respective industry.

Students can complete courses in as little as a few months, depending on the degree, and the program has been expanded to teach high school students.

Pedroza helped many of the high school students in her class focus on their coursework.

“Some of them were not on the right path at first, but after they were around adults in the classroom, they realized that they should take the class seriously,” she said.

Pedroza was nervous to begin her job at Heritage Pointe Senior Living, where most of the patients have dementia.

“It was a tough place, but it has rewarding moments,” she said, recalling an occasion with an elderly woman who had briefly remembered her family.

“She was crying because her family had not visited her in a couple of months. She would sit in her room all day with the shades down and was depressed,” Pedroza said. “I told her, ‘We all still love you here, even though they don’t visit. We are your family too.’”

“Then she hugged me and told me she loved me,” she continued. “I love my job, and I don’t want another one.”

“I always recommend (the CNA program) to people who are looking for a job,” she said. “They will fall in love with it — I know, because I did.”

The program is a collaborative effort by Minnesota West Community & Technical College, Southwest Minnesota Private Industrial Council, Southwest Minnesota Adult Basic Education and the Marshall Area Technical & Education Center. The college offers the program in 14 southwest Minnesota counties.

For more information contact Annette Waterman: awaterman@swmnpic.org.

Alex Chhith

Alex Chhith joined the Worthington Daily Globe in Janurary 2016 after graduating from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities with duel bachelor degrees in Professional Journalism and Political Science and with a minor in Spanish Studies. The Eden Prairie, Minnesota native interned for a couple of news publications located in St. Paul and in her hometown during her undergraduate career. She also studied abroad in Toledo, Spain last year -- though her Spanish is a little rusty at the moment. At the Globe she covers primarily the City and Education beat, but has most recently also covered the Crime and Courts beat. On the weekends, Alex likes to relax and catch up with her friends or with her favorite television shows. Game of Thrones, House of Cards and Lord of the Rings are her go-to films to watch. 

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