Celebrating 24 Years of Service to the Local Community!
Healthcare Career Advancement Academy
Students Share Their Stories
Valley Glen - - The room was filled with smiles and congratulatory hugs on June 9, 2010, as 44 students graduated from the Healthcare Career Advancement Academy. Each student had their own story of how they got there and what the experience meant to them. Two students addressed the group as graduate speakers and a third student stepped forward to share his inspiring journey. Here are their stories.

* * * * *
Joann Renee Liddell

When Joann Renee Liddell, 48, walked into the CAA classroom for the first time, she knew she would recognize at least one of her classmates. Her son, William Shannon, 28, was Joanne Renee Liddell accepts congratulations.taking the class with her.

“Two years ago, I was laid off from a company I had worked at for eight years. My son finished college, but all of the jobs he was applying for required experience, and he didn’t have experience yet. The CAA program seemed like the perfect opportunity for both of us.”

Liddell hadn’t been in a classroom since high school, so having her son with her was comforting. “We studied together and helped each other.” 

Liddell was attracted to the healthcare field because she felt there had been something missing in her work as an administrative assistant. “I’m a people person. My heart is overfilled with compassion. If I see someone in need, I have to help. I know that when I’m sick and someone shows me they care, it makes me feel better. What better way to help people than to work as a medical assistant?” She will start a nine month Medical Assistant training program two weeks after graduation.

Liddell praised the instructors. “Dr. [Virginia] Green, that lady is amazing! She is a motivator. She counseled me and had me start a journal. I’d never done that before, but I’m finding that the more I write, the better I feel. Diana [Platt] had so much patience; I never saw her get upset. Ira [Lovitch] challenged us and never backed down.”

 “I did this, it can be done. I learned that it’s never too late to better yourself.”

Joann Renee Liddell’s Graduation Speech

Good morning. On behalf of YPI and Los Angeles Valley College, I would like to welcome you all to our graduation.

My name is Renee. Two years ago my son and I both found ourselves laid off from our jobs. After numerous interviews we still had not found jobs. I went to the public library one day and this bright orange flyer caught my attention. I read it and it said free healthcare classes for CNA, Pharmacy Technician, and Medical Assistant. I went home and called and was told to come in for an orientation. I went and I listened. I then went home and told my son about the program and we both decided this program is for us.

When I received the phone call that said we both had been accepted I was both happy and nervous. I hadn’t been to school in thirty years. When I walked into the classroom the first day I was nervous. You see, we were given a CASAS state exam and I didn’t do too well, so I didn’t think I would be able to do well in the class. But my classmates and my son helped me every step of the way. When we were finished with our classes we were given the CASAS exam once again to see what we had learned.

I am proud to say that while I tested in at an eighth grade level in English, I tested out at an eleventh grade level. My test score went up three grades. In math I tested in at an eighth grade level. I tested out at a 13+ college level. My grade went up five levels.

To that I just want to say on behalf of my classmates and myself to our wonderful teachers, thank you for pushing us and believing in us. Dr. Green, our motivator, who always told us, “what you get is what you accept.” To Diana who told us every day, “this is easy, you can do it.” And to Ira who challenged our minds to learn math.

I would also like to say never quit, never give up, and with hard work, dedication and perseverance, you can do it.

To all our counselors at YPI and Los Angeles Valley College, Doug and Marcie, thank you for giving us this chance to advance in our careers.

To my classmates, we did it. Woo hoo! Thank you.

* * * * *
Ben Cervantes

Ben Cervantes, 29, wasn’t sure what to do next.

He’d dropped out of high school and later earned Ben Cervantes shows off his certificate.his GED. He hopped from job to job working at places like Blockbuster, McDonalds, Sally Beauty Supply, and IHOP. He enrolled in college, but after losing his job he was unable to afford the classes and had to drop out. After an exhaustive job search, he stumbled upon a flyer about the CAA program at a WorkSource Center and excitedly started attending class. “I want to be productive and work towards a specific career path. Being a part of the CAA program seemed like a great way to do that.”

He said the instructors made class fun and interesting. “Charmain [Howington] did a really cool exercise with building blocks. We sat with our back to our partner and had to instruct them to build something using the blocks without being able to see what they were doing. I learned a lot about my communication style from the exercise and learned I need to be more specific and descriptive when I speak.”

Cervantes hopes to become a Pharmacy Technician. “I’m energetic and active and enjoyBen Cervantes accepts congratulations upon graduation. helping people. Being a Pharmacy Technician seems like a good fit for me. There will always be a need for it, so it seems like a solid career path.”

Ben Cervantes Graduation Speech

Good morning. We’re gathered here today to mark an occasion. To remind us all later of the rare, good people, who have made it possible for us to be here today. We all share a common interest. That is to succeed, gain our independence, and be a part of a productive society. With our differences and each with our unique history. We stand united.

Here are a couple of reasons why:

I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say that I’ve found clarity and peace. Having lost my job, unable to pay for college, my frustration grew. With an ounce of doubt and a bolt of hope, I kept on. I picked up a flyer at my local WorkSource center that claimed to train for skills and trades, without a charge, for people in need. I quickly picked it up and got myself on the list for success. Just a couple of weeks later I knew that it was real and not too good to be true.

So please take a moment to commend yourselves for waking up to life yet another day. Second, an esteemed acknowledgement to YPI and their team of humble case workers, who walked us step by step to the gates of opportunity. In my particular case, I thank Eva Clayton whom I called and visited at least eight to ten times.

The instructors, Yogesh Arora, Charmain Howington, and Dr. Chander Arora, managed to raise our level of skills at such an accelerated rate.

Last but definitely not least, the staff and directors here in the Job Training center at Los Angeles Valley College. They fight every day to keep us here. They get the funding, do the paperwork, and make the phone calls. They pull the strings for you and me. They are Doug Marriott, Lennie Ciufo, and how can we forget Marcie Sardanis, who has kept us grounded and centered, all in our best interest.

And now if the graduates could please rise, and let's give ourselves a standing ovation. We did it ya’ll!

* * * * *

Jimmy Guillen

Jimmy Guillen, 24, had a rocky childhood and was kicked out of his home at twelve-years-Jimmy Guillen shows off his certificate. old. He got mixed up with a bad crowd and got involved in gangs which lead to an arrest at thirteen. He spent the next several years in Juvenile Hall.

While serving time he gained a fresh outlook on life. “I realized life wasn’t a joke and you only get to live once. I didn’t want to continue down a bad path. I had to make a change,” Guillen explained.

After serving his time, he got out and became involved with YO! Valley, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for youth to reach their education, employment and personal goals. Through YO! Valley he learned about the CAA Program.

“I’d been having a hard time finding a job because of my record. I knew I wanted to get a job so I could support myself and go to school. The CAA Program seemed like a way for me to actually do that.”

He enrolled in the course and focused his energy on the program. After four weeks, Guillen’s test scores had improved remarkably. At the start of the program, he took the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System (CASAS) Exam to test his grade level for English and math. At the beginning of the program he was at a 9th grade English level Handshakes all around for graduate Jimmy Guillen. and after the CAA program he was at an 11th grade level. Additionally, he started at an 8th grade math level and finished at a 13+ grade level, moving up over five grade levels.

He said all the teachers inspired him and he really connected with Dr. Chander. “You could tell she was there because she loves helping people.”

Guillen doesn’t have a physical place to call home and doesn’t always have enough money for food. During the course of the four-week class he slept at different friend’s homes and sometimes ended up sleeping in his car. “I don’t consider myself homeless. In the last few years I’ve found people who believe in me and I don’t feel like I’m in this alone any more,” he said.

His goal is to continue taking classes and to become an x-ray technician. “I have faith. I know I can do this. Once I get a job and a place to live, I want to get more schooling. I’m going to be a doctor. I’m going to come back here some day and show everyone. It’s hard but I know I can do it.”

* * * * *

We know he can do it too. Congratulation graduates. We can’t wait to see where the future takes you!