Scholarships help local workers get new career paths

Date Published: 
March 31, 2017

Almost two decades ago, Kathleen Kisela started working toward an important goal in her life — becoming a nurse.

At the time, although her children were small, Kisela believed she could juggle the demands of family with those of nursing school at Delaware Technical Community College in Georgetown. She found, however, that it was just too much, at the time.

“It was pretty stressful,” she said. “So I couldn’t finish what I started.”

For years, the Milton resident felt as if she just would not be able to achieve that goal.

Now 54 and the grandmother of 4-year-old Covin, Kisela is closing in on her dream. She has nearly completed training as a clinical medical assistant through Sussex Technical High School’s Adult Education Health Professions program.

Once she has finished the year-long program, Kisela will be able to work in any doctor’s office, from the reception desk to the examining room. She said her both her family and the school have been “a terrific support system” for her as she has worked toward her goal, which involved classes several times a week.
Kathleen KiselaKathleen Kisela
Currently employed by a home healthcare agency, Kisela said she is really looking forward to finishing her CMA classes and “getting into the clinical side” in a doctor’s office.

She also had some very important financial help, from a group of local benefactors formed to help people exactly like her.

The Southern Delaware Education Foundation was founded in 2009 by a group of people who wanted to help those in their community who were seeking further education in order to enter better-paying career paths. Although it is sponsored by the Community of Christian Churches and by St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church in Bethany Beach, member Jackie Boyd said the foundation is not a religious one.

Tyra ThompsonTyra Thompson“The ministers on the board were just very interested in seeing people succeed,” Boyd said.

Kimley Hines, Health Professions coordinator for Sussex Tech’s Adult Education division, said “There is a tremendous need for help” with continuing education tuition. The SDEF picks up 75 percent of the tuition for the applicants its board chooses for the assistance program.

Tyra Thompson is another recipient of an SDEF scholarship. The 28-year-old mom to 6-year-old Jayvon has worked at the Methodist Manor House in Seaford for several years — first as a housekeeper and for the last year as a certified nursing assistant (CNA).

“The CNA was something I had wanted to do for a long time,” she said.

Not having to worry so much about paying the tuition was a big help for her, especially on the many nights she wasn’t sure she was going to finish.

“I was working full-time and going home and doing four chapters of homework,” she recalled. “There were many nights I felt like I just couldn’t do it,” she said. “There were nights when I cried.”

Nevertheless, she persisted — through three months of classes four nights a week, in addition to her job and her responsibilities as a mom.

She said that, although she still does some housekeeping work at the Manor House, she finds her CNA work in the facility’s dementia unit extremely gratifying.

“They say, ‘Don’t get attached to the residents,’” she said. “But I do.”

The success of people like Kisela and Thompson is the ultimate goal for both the Sussex Tech Adult Education program and the SDEF. Hines called the Sussex Tech program a “steppingstone” from a high-school diploma or GED into a profession with higher salaries and greater chance for advancement.

The SDEF tuition program is meant for those who might “fall through the cracks” and have not qualified for other assistance programs. The group’s philosophy is simple, according to member Jeannie Fleming.

“We just feel like someone helped us along the way; it’s our turn to help someone else.”

The Southern Delaware Education Foundation will be hosting a Party with a Purpose at 6 p.m. on May 4 at the new Big Fish Grill restaurant in Ocean View to help raise funds for its tuition assistance program. The event will feature heavy hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, auction items and a 50/50 drawing. For more information or for tickets, call Jeannie Fleming at (302) 539-8070.