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Pioneer Student Graduates!

When Lea Dezai fled her home in the Ivory Coast with her husband and son, she had little more on her mind than safety. Once she settled in Philadelphia, she was referred to District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund which offered the programming she needed to get settled in her adopted country. The Training Fund first helped her with English through its ESL classes, then helped her become a Home Health Aide, and finally helped with become a Certified Nurse Aide.

But it was through the support of the Direct Care Worker Grant that Dezai landed her perfect CNA job. Nafeesah Taylor, the grant’s career coach, sat with Dezai to help her prepare her resume, work through applications, practice interviewing and finally helped her decide from a number of job offers. “Ms. Taylor asked me which one I wanted to work for. I had to make a choice.”  

Dezai picked Genesis Health System and with that became the Training Fund’s first person to be hired under the Direct Care Worker Grant.

The grant is a collaboration among the District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund, The Training and Education Fund, their affiliated labor unions, and the Pennsylvania Health Care Association to develop a solution to the shortage in direct care workers. The goal: to recruit, train or upgrade, and mentor 1,000 nursing assistants across the state to alleviate the direct care nursing shortage in long-term care facilities.

Dezai recalled her first days on the job. “In the beginning, I was scared.”  But she thanked her coworkers for their support. “All of the people helped me,” she said. “They ask me ‘Lea are you ok?’ and I help them, too.”

“From the beginning, Lea was really determined. We worked together to complete applications and her resume,” Taylor recalled. What Dezai brings is an infectious, bubbly personality and an unflappable manner that makes her as well-liked as a Genesis staff member as she was a Training Fund student.  Now, she is still entitled to benefits from the Direct Care Worker Grant including training to receive micro credentials in areas such as LGBTQ care and non-violent crisis intervention techniques.

Taylor said Dezai saw the Direct Care Worker grant as a career pathway platform which will eventually help her become a Registered Nurse. “The nurse aide credential is a good way to get your foot inside the door and the Direct Care Worker Grant means that tuition costs, which can run $1500 and more, are free.

“I try to tell every participant, it is a steppingstone,” said Taylor.

For more information about our Philadelphia program: contact Nafeesah Taylor at 215-821-8738

For more information about our Pittsburgh program, contact Jen L’Insalata at 412-389-3024

Interested in Lea's journey and want to start your own? Click here

Our Impact This Year

  • Employer Partners

    85

  • Certifications Earned

    16

  • Students Enrolled

    161

  • Tuition Assistance Awarded

    $136,150

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