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Senator hears health care success stories

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbleft watches as students DejWilliams center Meghann Goodwright practice moving patient Ñ mannequÑ classroom Monday SouthlHealth Care

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, left, watches as students Deja Williams, center, and Meghann Goodwin, right, practice moving a patient Ñ a mannequin Ñ in a classroom Monday at the Southland Health Care Forum in Matteson. Supervising the students is instructor Kimberly Pina. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 2, 2014 6:20AM



Cory Williams calls the Southland Health Care Forum “a lifesaver” for him.

He’d quit his job as an auditor with the Illinois Toll Highway Authority in 1997 to devote himself full time to real estate, eventually building a successful 14-employee company that rehabbed single-family and multi-family housing in the south suburbs.

When the real estate market went into free fall due to the recession, Williams said he was scrambling to find new employment. He credited the Forum with helping him get into the nursing program at Prairie State College.

“In a year I will be an RN,” he said Monday.

The nonprofit uses grant money to train low-income, at-risk adults in the health care field and was founded in 2003 by hospitals from throughout the Southland. On Monday, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin heard Williams’ story and from students currently enrolled in classes at the Forum’s Matteson offices.

Williams is a graduate of the Forum’s certified nursing assistant program, a requirement in order to enroll in Prairie State’s nursing program. Current Forum student Crystal Hernandez said that, several years ago, she did work as a certified medical assistant, but the single mother of four wanted to improve her employability, still “it was very hard for me to think of going back to school,” she told Durbin and others at a roundtable discussion.

“I knew I needed something better for my life,” Hernandez said of her decision to enroll in the Forum program.

A Durbin staffer said the senator’s visit is part of an ongoing review of job training programs at community colleges and other facilities around Illinois. He told CNA students in a classroom Monday that they’re entering an “expanding field of opportunity and you’re off to a great start.”

According to the Forum, there are nearly 1,800 CNA positions available each year in Illinois. It said that 90 percent of students that enroll in its classes finish, and it has an 80 percent job placement rate.

Donna Brazis, director of nursing at Moraine Court, a supportive living facility in Bridgeview, said she’s been working with the Forum for about six months, hiring students who complete the CNA program.

“I’m hiring probably a student a month, and I’ve been very pleased,” she said.

Brazis said the schooling they’re getting “prepares them to be compassionate and have a true heart for caring for the elderly.”

Along with their medical training, Forum students get assistance with job search skills, such as writing a resume and prepping for a job interview.

Marie Hansel, vice president of academic affairs at Prairie State and former nurse, said the Forum is providing opportunities “for people who wouldn’t normally have an opportunity.” She said that of this year’s nursing program graduating class at the Chicago Heights school, 11 of the 13 honor students were former Forum students.



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