d461bic054The Department of Education has awarded Moraine Valley Community College a $2.25 million Title III—Strengthening Institutions Program grant for its Increasing Access to Career Pathways initiative. The college will receive $450,000 a year for five years beginning October 2016.

Grant funds will be used to establish four health care programs – nursing, basic nurse assistant, phlebotomy, and another allied health curriculum – and new student success interventions at the college’s Education Center at Blue Island (ECBI). The goal is to increase access to these programs for its diverse student body at the satellite location, 12940 S. Western Ave.

“Expanding our health care programs to the Education Center at Blue Island has long been an objective of the college. This grant also will allow Moraine Valley to develop appropriate student success and instruction methodologies to ensure all students are well prepared to meet the growing need for health care professionals,” said Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, president of Moraine Valley.

In a survey of 208 students enrolled in high school equivalency and English-as-a-Second-Language classes at the ECBI, 82 percent said they are interested in nursing and 83 percent are interested in basic nurse assistant if it is offered there. These students said they prefer to attend ECBI because it is closer to home and easier for them to get to than the college’s main campus in Palos Hills.

LoShay Willis, assistant dean of Career Programs at Moraine Valley, said the expansion of the college’s programs in Blue Island comes at a good time.

“There’s a shortage in nursing and allied health care across the board,” she said. “At the same time, there’s a national movement to diversify health care programs because of the nation’s growing diverse population. There is a need for underrepresented minorities to pursue health care careers to meet a growing demand in the communities we serve.”

Of the students surveyed, 77 percent identified as Hispanic and 15 percent as African American. Most of the neighborhoods surrounding the ECBI have high minority populations. The Moraine Valley health science faculty and administrators, including Lydia Falbo, director of the college’s nursing program, see this expansion of services as a win for everyone: students who need health care education close to home, communities who need minority health care workers and the health care industry that is facing declining enrollment rates.

“Our programs are open to everyone, but a decreased number of Hispanic people are pursuing health care fields, and in that particular area of our district, there’s a demand for Hispanic health care professionals,” Falbo said. “And it’s not just Hispanic. It’s underrepresented populations. Many of our ESL students worked in health care in their home country. They know the material, but there’s a language barrier.”

The grant also allows for the creation of new student success interventions to help retain and graduate these students. The college will develop both a student portal with new features and technology-enhanced data analytics to help students and college employees understand the effectiveness of its services.

Moraine Valley also will implement an iBest model it has successfully used with other classes and student groups. The model incorporates student success strategies into the classroom such as having an educational specialist attend class with the cohort of students to assist them with understanding the material throughout the course. It also includes counseling and advising services at the ECBI. Oftentimes students’ struggles to complete are due to forces other than learning such as child care and marriage issues. “They need people to support them through these things,” Falbo said.

Moraine Valley will enroll students in these programs at the Education Center at Blue Island within the next five years. Kiana Battle, dean of Career Programs, said the college plans to offer the basic nurse assistant program first because it is designed so students can enroll almost immediately. Nursing likely will be the last program to be offered because of its complexity.

“The goal of a community college is to offer access and affordability” Battle said. “We want to have the ability to expand access at our satellite sites. We want to roll out new programs to increase access to our students. Being able to offer these programs at another location in our district is an awesome opportunity.”