Foster Youth Succeed Thanks to Partnership

an open book
Rebecca A. Eckland

For several years, TMCC has partnered with the Northern Nevada Literacy Council (NNLC) to offer education and workforce development opportunities for youth who face an extraordinary amount of barriers when it comes to literacy, education and advancing through the training it takes to enter the workforce. Thirty students will complete the program as of July 2021.

According to NNLC Executive Director Adrienne Santiago, many of the young people who participate in this partnership come from the foster care system. “We work with out-of-school youth, and a lot of them are aged-out foster care, or homeless youth who have a tremendous amount of barriers to get them into training. So, we work with TMCC to help these young people to overcome those challenges,” she said. 

Youth who enter the program are assessed to determine their reading and math level. “Sometimes these youth might even have a high school diploma, but their literacy and math skills are not quite where they should be for college-level work,” explained Santiago. “We work with them...and a lot of times they are going to TMCC and they are enrolled in our program to improve their literacy in math, reading or writing.”

The partnership has enabled NNLC to provide additional support to these youth who attend classes at TMCC, which includes helping to cover the cost of books and tuition. Students who have benefited from this partnership have pursued training in diverse career paths, including: phlebotomy, patient access and registration, diesel and automotive repair, bookkeeping, clinical medical assisting, real estate, certified administrative assistant, entrepreneurship, construction project management and pharmacy technician.

The partnership is helping these students to take the first step toward reaching their personal and professional goals: TMCC provides the training, while NNLC provides the supportive services. It’s a perfect equation that adds up to lasting success.

About the Northern Nevada Literacy Council

According to Santiago, this non-profit, grant-funded organization has long been dedicated to improving the literacy of Northern Nevada residents. “NNLC was started over 40 years ago by a couple of UNR instructors who met with students in libraries and coffee shops trying to help them prepare for the High School Equivalency exam and to improve their literacy,” she said. Today, the program helps thousands of youth and adults improve their literacy so it is no longer a barrier to entering a training program, and ultimately, to holding a satisfying and sustainable career.

Additionally, NNLC works with at-risk youth through a Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) grant. These students often face additional barriers, which can include work schedules, being a single parent, or trying to survive on a low income, or perhaps all of those things at once. 

“This partnership with TMCC is really great because it can provide those support services and to track their progress. We can ask students: ‘how are your grades?’ Or ‘what do you need?’” Santiago said.

Supports like this for students who face barriers are essential: Santiago recounts a student whose car was broken into, and all her books stolen. NNLC was able to replace those books for her, without passing that unexpected cost onto the student. 

“We work with an at-risk population, low income, with a tremendous amount of barriers. And everything we do is to help these youth enter the workforce. It really is laying down the foundation so many adult learners aged 17 and older to achieve a high school equivalency, and get into the workforce,” Santiago said. The program remains in touch with students for years after the program is completed, making sure the student finds and keeps a job. 

NNLC also works with local employers to create new job opportunities for its program completers. “NNLC will actually pay that employer for the first 480 hours that the student works for them,” she said. “It’s a win-win for the employer, because they might be hiring someone young who doesn’t have a long job history, but they can’t lose anything because we cover that upfront cost. And, there’s no guarantee of employment, either, so if the student completes the 480 hours and the employer discovers that they don’t need them, the youth nonetheless gets that important work experience.” 

Meeting Students Where They Are

And yet, the magic of the partnership between NNLC and TMCC is its ability to provide students the exact support they need to be successful. This is achieved, in part, by the assessment process that provides a clear indication of what skills students need help to develop. “Nothing is more defeating than, for example, wanting to complete phlebotomy training, but when you arrive in class on the first day, you have trouble reading the textbook,” she said, explaining barriers like that make it more likely that students drop out of the class and give up on pursuing their professional goals. 

“If we didn’t have TMCC, a lot of these things would not be possible,” said Santiago, who works closely with the Career Hub, TMCC’s Educational Programs Inspiring the Community (EPIC) and the Applied Technologies Department which houses many of the college’s workforce development programs. 

“These youth just need that support...and that’s exactly what this partnership provides,” she said. 

For more information about the partnership between Northern Nevada Literacy Council and TMCC, contact the Applied Technologies Department at 775-856-5300.