Opportunity Partnership Program Helps Yakima Valley Students Graduate - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Opportunity Partnership Program Helps Yakima Valley Students Graduate

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YAKIMA--What's working in Yakima to keep traditionally unsuccessful students from dropping out?

At Yakima Valley Community College there is the Opportunity Partnership Program.   The pilot program's one of only two right now in the state.  It helps students who may start, but typically do not finish college, giving them what they need to become certified nursing assistants.

"They get the funding they get the support," YVCC nursing instructor Michelle Bartholet said.  "[It's really important] especially for single mothers or people who have been out of school for 20 years, and now they're coming back."

The opportunities program matches students up with mentors in the medical field.  Their advice is crucial in and out of the classroom.

"We're kind of the cheerleaders to go to and keep them in school and help them with anything we can from suggestions on papers to things that they've come through in their studies," student mentor Donna Dill said.  "Most of these students have other things outside of their studies [to worry about.]"

One of Donna Dill's former patients, Rosemary Andrade, got her involved as a mentor.  Now, Andrade has her nursing assistant certificate.  She said Dill's help made the difference.

"Sometimes I can make a bad decision and she can tell me well that you can do this [instead], this is a better idea than if you do that," Andrade said.

Grants made it possible for Andrade to buy scrubs and an outfit for interviews.   The program gives students something worth more than money:  confidence.

"[They're] realizing, 'Hey, I can do this, I can go to college to be successful,'" Bartholet said.  "When they have those difficulties, with all the support that they get from the college they're able to make it through and continue on."

Ten students graduated from the program last spring.

The Opportunities Partnership Program is looking for mentors for about 40 students who start classes in January.

If you are interested in mentoring, contact A.K. Wintzer at the South Central Workforce Council at 509-574-1950.