JANUARY 19, 2022


On January 13th, founding Executive Director Steve Jackobs announced his plans to retire in August of 2022. Capital IDEA’s Board of Directors has begun the search for a successor to continue Steve Jackob’s legacy and ensure even more of our low-income neighbors succeed in education, enter skilled occupations, and reach their full potential. Read Press Release »

About Capital IDEA
Capital IDEA serves the community by acting as a bridge, connecting committed, yet underemployed people to employers in need of highly skilled workers. Capital IDEA funds participants’ tuition, books, and childcare and works with them to find employment with good salaries, benefits, and career growth opportunities.

Established in 1998 through the efforts of Central Texas Interfaith (formerly Austin Interfaith) and the local business community, Capital IDEA lifts working families out of poverty by sponsoring educational services that lead to life-long financial stability.

To date, more than 2,000 participants have entered career employment in high-demand occupations, including nursing and other healthcare occupations, high tech, and professional trades. The average starting earnings of participants entering employment in the last 12 months is $25.00/hr. More than 900 participants are currently in training or are receiving post-placement services. Half aspire to careers in nursing.

Our Compensation Philosophy
Capital IDEA has built a diverse and dedicated team that shares a passion for our mission. We reward performance through competitive salaries and merit-based raises. While we expect our team to go above and beyond in service to our community, we also believe that you must take care of yourself to take care of others. We offer a generous benefits package which includes a week of sick leave, two to four weeks of vacation (based on experience), plus extra paid time off for everyone during the holidays (we close from December 24th through January 1st every year.) We provide medical, dental, and vision insurance, plus a three percent match on retirement contributions. Each new member to join the team will have high expectations to meet and big goals to work towards. They will also have a team who supports them and the resources and opportunity to make a difference.

To Apply
Send resume, cover letter, and salary requirements through Indeed with attention to Paul Skeith, Board Chair.
Apply Indeed.com »
Deadline: February 1, 2022
Salary range: $95,000 – $135,000 a year

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JANUARY 13, 2022

Contact: Amy Silvey, Director of Development and Communications
512-485-9353, asilvey@capitalidea.org

Capital IDEA announces the retirement of founding Executive Director, Steve Jackobs

AUSTIN, TEXAS – JANUARY 13, 2022 – After serving as Capital IDEA’s Executive Director since 1998, Steve Jackobs announced his plan to retire in August of this year.

“After more than 23 years, and as I turn 65 in August, 2022 is the right time for me to pass on the leadership of Capital IDEA. I am proud and honored to have served as Capital IDEA’s Executive Director since its founding. It is my bedrock faith that we solve problems with win-win solutions. Capital IDEA proves that bringing together businesses that need skilled workers and our neighbors who need good careers is a win-win. Moreover, I stand in awe of our students’ grit and resolve as they work and study hard to create better lives for themselves and their families. I am inspired to see our graduates’ children follow their parents’ examples and succeed in their own education.”

“Capital IDEA has been fortunate to have such a committed, passionate, and steadfast servant leader since its inception.”

During his stewardship, Capital IDEA has so far placed 2,000 low-income Central Texans into new high-paying careers, primarily in nursing, other health care careers, tech, and the trades. Capital IDEA and Steve have received numerous awards over the years, including multiple Greater Austin Chamber Business Awards, First Tee Austin Robert T. Hughes Philanthropic Leader, Liveable City Vision Award, Ethics in Business, Bank of America Neighborhood Builder, Greenlights for NonProfit Success Collaboration Award, CommunityTechKnowledge, Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year, and the Dream Come True Foundation Lifetime Achievement. Capital IDEA will be featured in an upcoming book, Growing Fairly/How to Build Opportunity and Equity in Workforce Development, by former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and Kate Coleman.

Board Chair, Rev Paul Skeith, shared, “Central Texas invests local funds in the careers and futures of its low-income neighbors. Capital IDEA has been fortunate to have such a committed, passionate, and steadfast servant leader since its inception. We thank Steve for his legacy, and the board aims to find someone of equal passion and inspiration to continue to help families and local businesses flourish.”

About Capital IDEA
Capital IDEA serves the community by acting as a bridge, connecting committed, yet underemployed people to employers in need of highly skilled workers. Capital IDEA funds participants’ tuition, books, and childcare and works with them to find employment with good salaries, benefits, and career growth opportunities.

Established in 1998 through the efforts of Central Texas Interfaith (formerly Austin Interfaith) and the local business community, Capital IDEA lifts working families out of poverty by sponsoring educational services that lead to life-long financial stability.

To date, more than 2,000 participants have entered career employment in high-demand occupations, including nursing and other healthcare occupations, high tech, and professional trades. The average starting earnings of participants entering employment in the last 12 months is $25.00/hr. More than 900 participants are currently in training or are receiving post-placement services. Half aspire to careers in nursing.

Download Press Release (PDF)

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JANUARY 7, 2022

TEAMWORK & STUDENT SUCCESS | We’re hiring! Capital IDEA has an opening for an experienced case manager (3+ years of day-to-day case management experience working with adults receiving direct services and/or high school students transitioning into college). The Career Navigator provides case management for about 100 adult students and guides them through successful completion of their academic plan in preparation for job placement. To be considered for this position, applicants’ resumes should clearly include a track record of teamwork and student success. Please highlight in your cover letter and resume the skills you’ve developed to help students succeed, how you’ve contributed to effective teams in the past, and which (if any) of our sponsored careers you are familiar with. You can see our full list here: Career Directory

Employer Profile – What’s it Like to Work Here?

At Capital IDEA, we aim to empower our income-eligible neighbors with training and education so that they can fill a critical need in our community for caring, skilled, and highly motivated workers. Since our founding in 1998, more than 1,900 Central Texans have launched new careers and secured a brighter future for themselves and their families.

Capital IDEA has built a diverse and dedicated team that shares a passion for our mission. We reward performance through competitive salaries and merit-based raises. While we expect our team to go above and beyond in service to our community, we also believe that you must take care of yourself to take care of others. We offer a generous benefits package which includes a week of sick leave, two to four weeks of vacation (based on experience), plus extra paid time off for everyone during the holidays (we close from December 24th through January 1st every year.) We provide medical, dental, and vision insurance, plus a three percent match on retirement contributions. When you join our team, you’ll have high expectations to meet and big goals to work towards. You’ll also have a team who supports you, and you’ll know you’re making a difference.

To Apply
Read full job description and qualifications: Career Navigator – Job Description (PDF)
Email resume and cover letter with salary requirements to Program Manager, William Askew, Jr. employment@capitalidea.org.
Deadline: January 31, 2022
Salary range: $48-50,000

“Capital IDEA makes individuals stronger so that they can do the work that makes our community stronger.” – Stephanie Mbulu

DECEMBER 7, 2021

From early on, Stephanie Mbulu had the heart to help others. “My mother would joke that I came out of the womb wanting to help people,” but it wasn’t until the second grade, when her mother was in a car accident, that her desire to help would become a calling. That experience, and the care her family received from the nurses, was imprinted on her heart, and “I knew then that God had instilled in me this desire to be a nurse,” but the road to get there took many twists and turns.

Right after high school, Stephanie enrolled in college with her sights set on nursing school. In her first semester, she started dating someone and found out she was pregnant shortly before the relationship turned sour. It escalated into a physically abusive relationship, and she realized she had to get out before it was too late. When she turned to her family, the bedrock of support she thought she could always rely on, they gave her an ultimatum.

“I’m Nigerian. I grew up in an African household with immigrant parents who came to this country to get an education and work hard for their family.” Stephanie’s family is steeped in cultural values. One of these values is a priority for women to get married. Having a child out of wedlock was considered hugely disrespectful to her mother and the family. She had a choice. Give up her child before he was born or lose the support of her family. She chose her child, a son she named Kamani, and mother and son were left alone to fend for themselves.

“My mother would joke that I came out of the womb wanting to help people.”

Stephanie left community college to earn her credentials as a Medical Assistant, which was as close to her dream of being a nurse as she could get under the circumstances. In her new job, she worked tirelessly to provide for her child, making the best of the unexpected twists her life had taken. Little did she know, an opportunity was about to present itself that would change her life.

“I was working at an OBGYN clinic when I met a nurse who was a Capital IDEA graduate. She knew I wanted to pursue nursing and told me to check out the program. To be honest, Capital IDEA sounded too good to be true, but after attending an information meeting, I realized that they were the real deal.” After going through the application process, Stephanie was accepted into the Career Expressway program. She now had the support system she needed to make her dreams come true. “When I got accepted, it was such a big sigh of relief. And now I believed I could do this. Now I believed I could go all the way and get my nursing degree.”

Even with Capital IDEA’s support, Stephanie knew it would take a lot of hard work and sacrifice to finish nursing school. Without family to rely on, Stephanie had to get creative with childcare. “For single moms, you have to come up with a plan. Without the help of my family, I relied a lot on my friends. One would say they could only watch him till 11:00 am, and another would say they could pick him up and watch them until 3:00 pm. So I would pick him up at 3:30 after clinicals. And each day of the week, I had to make a different plan, but I was determined to do this.”

“To be honest, Capital IDEA sounded too good to be true, but after attending an information meeting, I realized that they were the real deal.”

Little to no sleep became routine for Stephanie during this time. After putting her son to bed, she would stay up late to finish her studying and schoolwork. But all that sacrifice and hard work paid off when she graduated with her Associate’s Degree. She even managed to pass the NCLEX,  the notoriously difficult nurse licensing exam, on the first try! And shortly thereafter, “it was like a dream come true” when she was hired at Ascension Seton Medical Center Main as an Operating Room Circulating Nurse.

Graduation meant more for Stephanie than just a degree. It meant a better job and a better life for her and her son, who is now eleven years old. And it presented an opportunity for reconciliation with some of her family when they saw everything she had accomplished. Just as life was heading in the right direction, Stephanie’s faith and resolve were tested once again.

About a year into her new job, a pandemic swept across the globe, upending life in a way most people had never experienced. By March of 2020, COVID-19 had become so widespread in the United States it was shutting down businesses and overwhelming hospitals. “It was frightening, especially being a new nurse. It felt like the world was on my shoulders, a very trying time. I worked more hours and days than normal, and in a very short time, I got burned out.” Her front-line work meant she had to distance herself from her son. “Kamani has asthma. I didn’t get to see him except through FaceTime. Being away from your child for almost two months is not a very good feeling at all.” As testing improved and vaccines became available, Stephanie reunited with her son, still maintaining strict cleaning protocols. “I used the same type of wipes we use at work to wipe down everything! I wiped shoes, the car, the shower, everything! The entire year he managed to be safe, and all of that couldn’t have been done without God.”

“I worked hard to make my dreams come true, and I want to be a guide to others. I gave my brother the motivation to go to medical school, and I have set a different standard with my family.”

Through it all, helping others continued to be a hallmark of who Stephanie is, whether she’s serving as a nurse or a role model. “I worked hard to make my dreams come true, and I want to be a guide to others. I gave my brother the motivation to go to medical school, and I have set a different standard with my family.”

Today, Stephanie continues to love her career as a nurse, and despite the pandemic, she knows she’s in the right career. “This was a very trying time, but in retrospect, it has been very rewarding. We got to be there and help people feel better and reassure people who had to come in for essential surgeries that they would be safe and taken care of.” And even though conditions continue to improve, nurses are still feeling the strain. “It’s so vital that we get more nurses trained and out in the field. Currently, nurses are working overtime, switching shifts, floated to other units, and are getting burned out. We need help!” This help cannot arrive soon enough for nurses like Stephanie. “New nurses coming in are going to be nervous and scared, but we’re here to support them.”

TIP: You can graduate two years earlier if you don’t wait two years to start.

Capital IDEA is currently supporting hundreds of future nurses just like we supported Stephanie, and we have room for even more. From acceptance to graduation, we guide students through training and education in essential fields like healthcare, technology, and trades, so that they can fill a critical need in our community for caring and skilled professionals. If you’re ready for a new career and could make good use of a FREE education, we invite you to LEARN MORE »

To apply, sign up for an info session: CareerUp »
For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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NOVEMBER 3, 2021

It takes incredible strength to start over and build a new life. Khaibar Rahimy and his family emigrated from Afghanistan about four and a half years ago. In Afghanistan, he was a degreed professional, a civil engineer. His skills allowed him to work with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and his work as an ally gave him the opportunity to move to the U.S. on a special visa with his family.

Moving to the U.S. was a bit of a mixed bag for Khaibar. On the one hand, the move provided safety and security for his family and better opportunities for his kids. On the other, it wasn’t easy to start over. Even though he had the experience and a degree as an engineer, the U.S. does not fully recognize degrees and credentials from many other countries. This meant Khaibar was technically not qualified to be an engineer in his new home country. If he wanted to re-enter his field, he’d have to re-earn his credentials.

“I was living with no purpose and no aim. I was just passing the time feeling like I had lost something.”

Starting over can be a debilitating endeavor for many people. Khaibar was used to the work and title of a civil engineer. His expertise was once considered valuable by the United States Army and others in his home country. And now, without the validation of his credentials, he had to take a low-paying job as a security guard to make ends meet for his family. This brought Khaibar to a low point in his life. “I was living with no purpose and no aim. I was just passing the time feeling like I had lost something.”

Fortunately for Khaibar, through Caritas of Austin, the organization that helped his family resettle in the United States, he was introduced to Capital IDEA. “When I heard about Capital IDEA, I found the motivation to get my degree because I knew it would give me more opportunities in life not only to support my family but also to improve my education.” Working full-time as a security guard provided barely enough for his family, so paying for college was out of the question. Capital IDEA paid for Khaibar’s tuition and textbooks so he could earn his degree. But Khaibar needed more than financial support.

“It was hard at first going to school. My English was weak,” Khaibar says, but his Career Navigator, Suzanne Baker, helped to enroll him in the English as a Second Language classes (ESL). “Suzanne gave me the motivation I needed. She gave me hope with ESL classes and helping me take care of all the forms I needed.” With Capital IDEA’s support in place, the rest was up to Khaibar.

It wasn’t easy. “For a long time, I was very sleepless.” He worked an overnight, eight-hour shift as a security guard, getting off at 7 am. He got about two to three hours of sleep, and then he woke up to help his family get their day started, driving them to appointments and running errands. On a good day, he would catch an extra hour or two of sleep before heading off to class, and somewhere in between, he managed to stay caught up with his homework.

“If I were by myself, I wouldn’t have been able to complete my goal. Capital IDEA advisors gave me the hope that I wasn’t alone.”

The sleeplessness paid off. Khaibar graduated with his Associate’s Degree in Computer Aided Design(CAD) – Civil Specialization, from Austin Community College. “Now I sleep eight hours every night!” He landed a job at Bleyl Engineering and is working towards his Master’s Degree at the University of Texas in San Antonio. His new job affords him the ability to provide for his family financially, and his new sleep schedule allows him to be less tired and more present for them.

Starting over wasn’t easy for Khaibar. When asked what was most meaningful about the support he received from Capital IDEA, he responded: “If I were by myself, I wouldn’t have been able to complete my goal. Capital IDEA advisors gave me the hope that I wasn’t alone. They helped me, and they called to check on me. No matter how difficult it got, I knew I wasn’t alone.”

Are you starting over? You don’t need to do it alone. With the support from Capital IDEA you can overcome the obstacles preventing you from earning your degree and getting the job you’ve always wanted. Sign up for an info session today.

To apply, sign up for an info session: CareerUp »
For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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OCTOBER 4, 2021

Support Spotlight Series

In this final installment of the Support Spotlight Series, we feature the career placement services at Capital IDEA.

Many of the adults who come through Capital IDEA have, at one point or another, had their doubts about getting a college education. It can feel risky to invest so much time and money in education when there’s a big question hanging in the air – will this degree get me a job? This is why Capital IDEA is incredibly particular about the degree programs we support. A new career only makes it onto our list when we know who the employers are, we’ve verified there is demand across the Central Texas region, and we’ve confirmed which degree programs or training options most reliably lead to employment. And to further increase the odds of our students finding a living wage job, we offer career placement services.

“I am grateful for the two internships I did while I was with Capital IDEA. It exposed me to professional work environments, and I had a job offer before I even graduated.”

– Jason Lopez
Graduate Spotlight: Be Your Own Hero

Career Placement Support

Career placement services at Capital IDEA provide an advantage to our students. Senior Employment Coordinator, Ron Modesty, assists graduates and soon-to-be graduates by developing their job search skills and creating a winning strategy. These skills include sharpening their resumes and cover letters, preparing for interviews, and knowing where to look for jobs. Ron also follows up with graduates to see if they’ve secured work, and if they haven’t, he provides important feedback to increase their chances of landing the job at their next interview.

In addition to the job search process, our career placement services also help our Information Technology (IT) students secure internships with valuable employer partners. Ron establishes partnerships with companies in the area, like Travis County and VISA, and secures internship slots for Capital IDEA IT students. These internships provide a tremendous advantage to students as it gives them on-the-job experience, and some are offered to stay on as full-time employees with those companies after their internship is over.

Our mission is to get our Central Texas neighbors into great careers. For us, getting a degree is only part of the process. That’s why our support extends past graduation all the way to their first placement and the start of an exciting career.

Meet The Staff

Ron Modesty, Sr. Employer Coordinator


Q: What is your role at Capital IDEA?
A: I perform all of the Career Placement services offered by Capital IDEA, including placing interns and forming partnerships with employers, but most of my time is spent preparing graduates to conduct professional job searches. I usually meet with our students between their last two semesters, and during their last semester, I have them complete a checklist of crucial items to find the job they want. I then help them to get started with their job searches. I like to think that I am not just preparing our graduates for their first job search but giving them the tools to do job searches for the rest of their working careers.

Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: The great Ann Landers once said: “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.”

Q: What is a fun fact your students usually learn about you in the first semester or year?
A: I love my job and have been with Capital IDEA for 22 years. And when I need to relax, you’ll find me on the greens, because I also love to golf. My favorite golf quote is: “They call it golf because all the other four-letter words were taken!”

Our support doesn’t end when you get the degree. We want you to find the job you’ve worked so hard for. If this is the type of support you want, sign up for an info session to get started.

To apply, sign up for an info session: CareerUp »
For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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SEPTEMBER 27, 2021

Support Spotlight Series

For the second installment in our Support Spotlight Series, we are highlighting our Career Navigators. It is one of the most important and unique forms of support that a student receives in the Career Expressway program. Keep reading to learn more about the role the support they provide.

“My Navigator never gave up on me. She kept calling me. At one point, I was out for a whole year, and if it weren’t for her, I probably would have never come back.”

– Juana Patino
Graduate Spotlight: One Family, Three Degrees, and Counting

Career Navigators

Every student in the Career Expressway has a unique set of challenges that they must overcome to get their degree and enter the professional workforce. For all, there is a financial barrier. For others, that’s combined with being a parent, or having a language barrier. And for some, it may be a confidence issue. To help them face their challenges, every student gets assigned a Career Navigator.

Similar to school counselors, Career Navigators advise students on coursework and provide resources to help with academic struggles. But our Career Navigators also go beyond the academic. Personal struggles can affect a student’s performance in school. That’s why a Career Navigator’s role in the Career Expressway program is so important. When a student informs their Navigator about a personal issue that could affect their academic goals, they search for ways to help that student. By providing support in this manner, they are able to help a student overcome obstacles that could prevent that student from getting their degree.

Career Navigators have helped so many of our students keep up with their classes and push through to graduation. Even when a student must step away from college due to personal reasons, Navigators stay the course and encourage individuals to come back to finish their degree. With this type of support, we’ve had tremendous success in helping individuals achieve their academic dreams.

Meet The Navigators

Theresa Soto, Career Navigator


Q: What is your role at Capital IDEA?
A: I am a Career Navigator who assists students in IT, CAD, and Trades (A/C, Heating, Automotive, Electronics Technician, Advanced Manufacturing, Solar, and the unions).

Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: I have a personal philosophy that I strive to live by: Carpe Diem, Seize the Day!

Q: What is a fun fact your students usually learn about you in the first semester or year?
A: I am a huge sports fan! My favorite time of year is football season in Fall and baseball season in the Spring! Oh, and I also love boxing and UFC.

Elida Guardia Bonet, Career Navigator


Q: What is your role at Capital IDEA?
A: I am a Career Navigator who assists students in College Prep and various Healthcare career tracks.

Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: I tell all my students to believe in themselves and be persistent. To take one day at a time. And then I share this quote with them: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao Tzu

Q: What is a fun fact your students usually learn about you in the first semester or year?
A: I am a storyteller and a writer. And most recently I managed to take advantage of this COVID situation to get into mosaics! It’s something I had been wanting to do just never found the time to do it. And I love it!

Sara Hernandez, Career Navigator


Q: What is your role at Capital IDEA?
A: I am a Career Navigator who assists students in all of the Healthcare careers we support.

Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: I like to tell students that when difficult times arise you have the NO with you, now go for the YES! Ask for, look for, work for, and imagine the YES with you. Then GO and make it happen.

Q: What is a fun fact your students usually learn about you in the first semester or year?
A: My accent is usually one of the first things students notice, so I tell them: I do not think with an accent. It is a part of me, and you will get used to it.

Lia Paschal, Career Navigator


Q: What is your role at Capital IDEA?
A: I am a Career Navigator who assists students in Healthcare careers.

Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: I usually tell students: Don’t try to control the uncontrollable.

Sister Ane Nguyen, Career Navigator


Q: What is your role at Capital IDEA?
A: I am a Career Navigator who assists students in the ADN, ADN Mobility Track, and LVN Programs. Currently, I have 60 students I am responsible for.

Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: It’s not so much a quote but a motto: Be open to learning new things and take a risk. Never give up and seek help when needed. None of us is an island.

Q: What is a fun fact your students usually learn about you in the first semester or year?
A: I believe you have to love your career and be strong and steady to build a foundation under it. I have been with Capital IDEA for over 22 years and am dedicated to my students. I remember a student of mine that was with me for over 7 years! He just completed this summer, and he is so grateful that I did not give up on him. This is the same dedication that I promise to all my students.

We’re here for you! If you or someone you know has always dreamed of earning a degree but needs support to get there contact us today! We’re ready to help you reach your goals.

To apply, sign up for an info session: CareerUp »
For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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SEPTEMBER 17, 2021

Support Spotlight Series

For over 20 years, Capital IDEA has supported thousands of students on their journey toward a college degree and a better job. Every student accepted into the Career Expressway program is supported financially and offered personal guidance because often, money isn’t the only obstacle keeping someone from earning a degree.

In our Support Spotlight series, we are highlighting the different types of support we offer and introducing you to the dedicated staff who provide these vital supports. Today we are highlighting our childcare services and introducing you to our Program Specialist, Rosemary Cavazos.

“To be honest if it wasn’t for Capital IDEA, I wouldn’t be in school right now. There would be no way that I could afford going to school and work part-time, to get a new career. It would be almost impossible on my own to do that. Childcare was a huge factor.”

– Melinda Sertuche
Student Journey: Child Care Doesn’t Need to Hold You Back

Childcare Support

Capital IDEA understands the challenges of going to school as a parent, and that’s why childcare support is a vital component of the Career Expressway program. When a student has childcare in place, they are less likely to miss class and more likely to graduate on time. With over 40% of our students having children under 18 years of age, our commitment to this type of support is crucial to the mission.

Because their children will always come first, setting up childcare support is one of the first steps a new student takes once accepted into our program. We partner with two local Child Care Services (CCS) programs, Workforce Solutions CCS Capital Area and Workforce Solutions CCS Rural Area, to provide support across the ten-county region. We also help our students find the right care for their situation through programs like YMCA’s Extend-a-Care or Boys and Girls Club. And for those that qualify we search out free options like Austin ISD Pre-K or Head Start programs, and Austin Community College’s student childcare scholarship program.

Childcare support has helped so many of our parent students keep up with their classmates and avoid graduation delays. And thanks to our extensive partner network, we are confident we can find a solution for every parent ready to pick up a backpack and become a Career Expressway student.

Meet The Staff

Rosemary Cavazos, Program Specialist


Q: What is your role at Capital IDEA?
A: I assist all Capital IDEA participants with childcare needs. I have a passion for helping families who struggle with the current providers because their children require additional or specialized care to assist with diagnosis or delays in development.

Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: “The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.” – James Baldwin

Q: What is a fun fact your students usually learn about you in the first semester or year?
A: I know childcare centers very well! I spent almost 20 years working in both private and corporate centers as a director for the facilities, helping them qualify to receive state certifications. I can also relate to our students personally, having started my bachelor’s degree program with four kids, one of them being a newborn. This year I finished my master’s degree while managing a household of five kids, a goat, a pig, two bunnies, and two dogs! I understand what my students are going through, and I’m all in to help them achieve their goals.

We’re here for you! If you or someone you know has aspirations of earning a degree and moving up into a great career, but are concerned about childcare, contact us today! We’re ready to help you reach your goals.

To apply, sign up for an info session: CareerUp »
For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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JULY 1, 2021

College isn’t for everybody, right? Some people should go, but others just aren’t cut out for it. That’s the conclusion Skyler Coffman arrived at when his first attempt at college didn’t pan out. But Skyler is now a college graduate with a great job. As a Senior Ops Technical Support Specialist at VISA, he earns enough to cover all of his own living expenses and pay for his upcoming wedding and honeymoon. Once he’s married, his next goal will be to buy a home. So, what changed? How did Skyler go from counting himself out to having the confidence to give college another try?

After high school, Skyler enrolled in college. He knew it was the proverbial next step, but he wasn’t sure what he wanted to study. He’d been a C student at best in high school, and it carried over into his first year in college where poor grades just won’t cut it. “It got to the point where the dean called me in and informed me that if my grades didn’t improve, I would have to leave. So at that point, I thought, ok, well, I guess college isn’t for me.”

For Skyler, it felt like his options were shrinking. If college wasn’t for him, he would have to find the best job open to him without a college degree. Then, hopefully, he’d still be able to support himself and the future family he knew he wanted. His first stop was in retail and sales, but it was a bad fit. It didn’t matter if he was on a sales floor or going door-to-door; sales was definitely not for him.

“Capital IDEA provided the guidance, and I didn’t feel like I was alone.”

His next stop was a call center where he provided computer support. At first, it felt right. He loved helping people with computer and networking issues, but the demanding environment coupled with an exhausting call volume was overwhelming, and the stress got to him. The high-pressure customer service roles eroded his vision for his future and left Skyler in a depressed state. “Right before I went into Capital IDEA I was at the lowest point of my life. I remember going into IHOP with my fiancée and looking at the menu, worrying if I could afford anything. I didn’t have a lot of money, and I felt awful that I couldn’t even take my girlfriend out to dinner.”

But Skyler’s journey through the world of unsatisfying jobs had done something important — it had rekindled his joy of working with computers. This was the missing piece that had impeded his first attempt at college. He didn’t know what he wanted to do back then, and the lack of enthusiasm had shown up in his grades. Now Skyler remembered fondly playing with his dad’s old TI 99/4. He was sure he wanted to do something with computers which meant there was no way around it. He would have to give college another try.

The answer for how to pay for college came soon after. “My dad saw Capital IDEA in the newspaper and said, ‘Hey, you should try this.’ At first, I was skeptical. It says they pay for tuition and fees, books, and a parking permit. What’s the catch?” Skyler went to a CareerUp information session where he found out there was no catch. So, he applied and got accepted into the Career Expressway program. It was his second attempt at college, and this time it would be different.

“The first time, I wasn’t really sure of myself. When I finally decided to go back to college, I was older. I knew what career I wanted to pursue, and I had a girlfriend that I wanted to marry.” In addition to having a clear career goal and extra motivation, Skyler also now had the support of Capital IDEA. “Capital IDEA provided the guidance, and I didn’t feel like I was alone. The biggest thing is that they guide you through the whole process and support you through the challenges along the way.”

Skyler reenrolled in classes he’d failed before, but even with a new outlook and a new attitude, the grades didn’t come easy. “I struggled at first with the math classes, but I got a tutor that really helped me through it. Once I got to the classes that interested me, it became easier. When asked what advice he would give to someone who struggles with grades as he did, he said, “Don’t dwell on the negative. Instead, take a step back, see what works and what doesn’t, and seek out tutoring.”

As Skyler continued to grow in his understanding of network administration through his studies and internships, he realized that he could help others with the same struggles. The student community that surrounded him through Capital IDEA allowed him to do just that. “I became like a mentor and helped others with their work. Teaching others helped me understand the concepts better.” Getting to know other students also helped Skyler develop a network of colleagues in the IT world that he continues to benefit from.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. Find what you’re good at and lean into it.”

With the support of Capital IDEA, the student community, his family, and his fiancée, Skyler graduated from Austin Community College in 2018 with his Associate’s Degree in Network Administration. Since then, he has earned six certificates and started working towards his bachelor’s degree. In the thirteen years that passed between his first attempt at college and his graduation, he went from wondering if he could afford to buy his fiancée anything on an IHOP menu to paying for their wedding, renting his own apartment, and putting a down payment on their honeymoon to Disneyworld. Skyler and his fiancée will be married in March 2022, and their future together is looking bright.

Capital IDEA is invested in the success of every student in the Career Expressway program. In addition to financial support, we provide services and resources to help students like Skyler make the grade and graduate. Skyler went from believing that college wasn’t for him to being less than a year away from his Bachelor’s Degree. He did it, and you can too. As Skyler would say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Find what you’re good at and lean into it.” Sign up for a CareerUp info session to learn more about the Career Expressway program.

To apply, sign up for an info session: CareerUp »
For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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JUNE 23, 2021

Viewing note: the video components may take a second to load. The digital format is mobile-friendly, but for the best experience, we recommend viewing full screen on your computer, laptop, or tablet.

The wait is over– Capital IDEA’s 2020 Annual Report is here! And while you may be understandably hesitant to revisit 2020, this multi-media report is full of success stories, powerful lessons learned, and abundant gratitude for our amazing community. None of these achievements would’ve been possible without YOU!

We were blown away by the generosity we received in 2020. Thank you to the donors who helped keep our operations going, the volunteers who gave their time and talent, and the employer partners who offered our graduates a start in their new career. YOU changed lives.

If we were able to achieve all of this in the midst of a pandemic, imagine what we can continue to do together in the days and months ahead.

To apply, sign up for an info session: CareerUp »
For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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JUNE 10, 2021

Is getting a degree in Advanced Manufacturing (AM) worth the next two years of your life?
The short answer is YES! Capital IDEA has done the research. Every degree program we sponsor has to meet several criteria before we can add them to the Career Expressway and offer them as FREE degrees:

  • In demand ☑
    Two years is a significant investment for anyone. We want to make sure that there will be a job available to you when you get the degree. Every career we sponsor has a high probability of securing employment after graduation.
  • Living wage ☑
    What’s the point of getting a degree if it’s not going to pay? Every career we sponsor must have a starting wage that will pay you enough to support yourself, no side job needed.
  • Start Sooner ☑
    A four-year degree can take anywhere from four to six years to complete. With few exceptions, we choose associate degree programs at local community colleges for our students so that they can earn a degree and get into a living-wage career in half that time. After that, they can choose to pursue a four-year degree building on the degree they already earned.
  • Opportunity for Growth ☑
    Every career we sponsor has room for professional growth and the ability to move up the ladder. As you gain more credentials, complete that four-year degree, or expand your skillset, you’ll move up and earn a higher wage.

The Advanced Manufacturing degree at Austin Community College meets the criteria above, and the Austin area has excellent companies looking to hire college graduates for skilled positions right away. We have created a Top 5 List. These local Manufacturing companies have historically been reliable employers of AM graduates, and they provide a livable wage with room for advancement.

OUR TOP 5 LIST:

1. Samsung Austin

Samsung building

Samsung Austin has close to 5,000 employees in Austin and is a leading manufacturer of digital products. Their Austin facility is one of the most advanced semiconductor manufacturing facilities in the world.

2. National Instruments

National Instruments has been around since 1976, is a nationally known brand, and is one of the largest manufacturing companies in the Austin area. They have over 10,000 employees and are always looking for high-performing graduates.

3. Flex

Flex has close to 2,000 employees in Austin and was one of Fortune’s 2021 World’s Most Admired Companies. They specialize in electrical and electronic manufacturing, so AM graduates focusing on electronics are a good fit for them.

4. Applied Materials

Applied Materials boasts the title of #1 provider to the semiconductor industry since 1992. The Austin branch hosts close to 2,000 employees, and a quick search on Indeed.com will show they have current open positions.

5. Tesla

Tesla may be the new kid on the block in Austin, but they are one of the most well-known electrical automobile manufacturers in the world. With the new plant opening in the Austin area, they are currently hiring for many manufacturing positions.

While you can get some manufacturing jobs without a degree or certification, those jobs start out either at minimum wage or slightly above and often have limited opportunity for advancement. With a degree, you’ll enter at a higher level with a career path ahead of you.

If this is the exciting, high-tech career opportunity you’ve been waiting for, then an associate degree is what you need to jump in, start at the right level, and keep climbing. The employers on our Top 5 list are only some of the great companies in the Austin area ready to hire you once you graduate.

Ready to get started? Here are steps you can take right now:

Two easy ways to learn more about Advanced Manufacturing:
Visit our Career Directory: Advanced Manufacturing »
Watch ACC’s video on YouTube: ACC Impact Academy – Manufacturing »

Find out how to get a FREE degree in Advanced Manufacturing:
Quick read overview: Get Your Degree in Advanced Manufacturing »
Sign up now for a Career Expressway info session: CareerUp »

To apply, sign up for an info session: CareerUp »
For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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MAY 27, 2021

Alumnus, Jason Lopez, shared the following remarks with Capital IDEA’s long-time supporter, the Sooch Foundation, during a virtual site visit on April 28, 2021. Jason was also featured in an episode of KLRU Austin PBS’s docu-series American Graduate: Getting To Work that aired in November 2019. Click here to watch » 

Hello, my name is Jason Lopez. With the support of Capital IDEA, I graduated in 2019 from Austin Community College with a degree in LAN Network Administration. I came to college with developed perseverance and a motivation to succeed that I learned from my family. I needed to be a positive change for my family, and it was my responsibility for my future.

I am the only member of my family to attend college. I needed to be an example to my siblings. My parents made many sacrifices for us, and it was my responsibility to take advantage and flourish with the opportunities that I had.

I went to my local public elementary school and during my last year, I got the opportunity to apply to a magnet middle school where I got accepted and took advanced courses that I found exciting. Up until that point, being a part of the magnet program was one of the most challenging academic experiences that I’ve ever gone through.

“Throughout my journey I realized that challenges were simply opportunities to become better than before, this encouraged me a lot.”

After middle school, I applied for a similar magnet high school. Unfortunately, I did not pass my algebra proficiency in the entrance exam, so I had no choice but to continue with a regular public high school. Fortunately, the challenging courses in middle school made high school a lot easier for me.

During my childhood, I saw my parents struggle financially. Even though they are intelligent and hard workers, finding well-paid jobs was not easy because neither completed high school. During my teenage years, to my surprise, my parents divorced, which meant that my siblings and I had to live between two homes. Those experiences increased my resolve to help my family and be an example to others. I wanted to show that even though you did not grow up with the best of circumstances, you can still succeed if you are determined to look for opportunities. I knew education meant a solid foundation for my future. I wanted a growing career with excellent income opportunities. When it came to college, I knew that my parents could not afford to help me financially, so it was going to be up to me to support myself.

I was not following a high school academic track that would make me stand out to college recruiters for potential scholarships. One day in my high school college counselor’s classroom, we had a presentation from a speaker named Daniel Lopez. He was there to share about a good option besides going to a four-year university. He explained how Capital IDEA would pay 100% for tuition, fees, books, and tests for workforce careers that are in demand in our community. I realized that Capital IDEA supports you financially from start to finish, but they also only offer high-demand jobs so you can’t go wrong by picking any of their careers. That solves two of the biggest problems the majority of college graduates face: student debt and getting employed after graduating.

“Being a part of Capital IDEA felt like I had a whole community by my side.”

I listened with even more interest when he said that they even offer paid internship opportunities during your studies! I thought, “what do I stand to lose other than my time?” There was essentially no risk in getting support from Capital IDEA compared to a regular four-year degree so I signed up, and I am so happy and grateful that everything that they promised they would do was true!

James was my Navigator. His guidance helped me navigate through college, registering, signing up for classes, getting internships. Anything administratively was made very easy by Capital IDEA through James. Having a mentor while going through the college experience made me feel comfortable and gave me hope whenever I was going through demanding classes like the required math class I took when I started. It was definitely difficult, but I learned how to manage my time better and that helped me get through it. Once I started taking my career-related classes it got easier, and my interest grew. Throughout my journey I realized that challenges were simply opportunities to become better than before, this encouraged me a lot.

I have always been timid and an introvert. I needed to develop my social skills and connect with peers to succeed in my career. My navigator encouraged me to network, so I did, and I met a lot of like-minded individuals who were after the same career and education as me. My peers were very supportive of each other. Being a part of Capital IDEA felt like I had a whole community by my side.

I am grateful for the two internships I did while I was with Capital IDEA. It exposed me to professional work environments, and I had a job offer before I even graduated. I accepted the job offer and to this day I am an Enterprise Technical Support Specialist for Spectrum Enterprises. I am still studying for additional I.T. certifications to become a Network Engineer for my company.

I am honored to return the favor by mentoring other Capital IDEA students and alumni, and peers at my workplace. I am also graduating this coming semester with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Network Operations & Security from Western Governors University. I bought my first home at 21, a year after I started working full-time, and have grown my retirement investments since then.

“To this day, I reflect on a T-shirt I received from Capital IDEA when I got started that says ‘Be Your Own Hero’. That is exactly what I did.”

I have deep gratitude to Capital IDEA and donors like the Sooch Foundation who invest in people like me. During my late teenage years, I began reading and listening to financial gurus like Robert Kiyosaki, Dave Ramsey, and Warren Buffet, and going forward, I would like to do what Capital IDEA does but focus on personal finance. I want to mentor and educate others on topics like how to build credit, the importance of investing at a young age, and how to manage debt. Financial education is as essential as a college education and flourishing in both areas is a powerful combination. This is the path out of poverty. To this day, I reflect on a T-shirt I received from Capital IDEA when I got started that says ‘Be Your Own Hero’. That is exactly what I did.


Is it time for you to be your own hero? Contact us and let us help you reach your career goals.

To apply, sign up for an info session: CareerUp »
For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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APRIL 8, 2021

Alpha Diallo’s life has been shaped by goals. Some he set for himself and others his parents set for the family. When he was 13, Alpha’s parents emigrated with him and his siblings from Guinea West Africa to France. Their primary goal was to escape dangerous circumstances and reach safety, but their next goals were more aspirational once that was achieved. Five years later, Alpha’s family arrived in the United States in search of more opportunities. His parents worked hard to provide a better life for them while prioritizing education for him and his siblings. Their continued emphasis on academic achievement has paid off.

“I wanted to be financially independent both for myself and my parents.” Alpha recalls setting this early personal goal and points to it as his motivation for seeking out his own opportunities. As the oldest, he knew that his parents could not afford to send him to college while also caring for his three younger siblings. He would have to find a way himself. Through a family friend, Alpha learned about Capital IDEA and the Career Expressway program. This was the opportunity he was looking for, and he was ready to take advantage of it.

Going to school was overwhelming. Alpha was committed to helping his family financially even while in school. He worked as a nurse aid, but while that provided him with significant experience in the healthcare field, it also complicated matters when figuring out class schedules and finding time to keep up with all of the classwork. In addition, Alpha had the challenge of language and cultural barriers to overcome. Shortly after he arrived in the United States, he started taking English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), which helped, but it felt like there was still a gap. “It was hard for the first year in college, especially when it came to writing papers and doing research for assignments.”

Thankfully, Alpha had the support and guidance of his Capital IDEA Career Navigator, Suzanne Baker. “I enjoyed getting together to assess my progress and was provided helpful hints to get better. The advice and encouragement to keep up the work the closer we got to the end was a big help.” With the support of his family and Capital IDEA, Alpha graduated with his Associate of Applied Science in Nursing from Austin Community College in 2015. But he wasn’t done.

“Education is definitely the way out of low-paying jobs, and I think it is important to pursue it when you have the opportunity to do so.”

After graduation, Alpha’s new goal was to earn a bachelor’s degree. He secured a position with Aveanna Healthcare as a home health nurse while also continuing his education. Four years later, he earned his Bachelor’s in Nursing Science from Texas Tech in 2019. And he’s still not done.

For Alpha and his family, education is essential and the key to upward mobility in life. “Education is definitely the way out of low-paying jobs, and I think it is important to pursue it when you have the opportunity to do so.” He and his parents are incredibly proud of his younger siblings who have all achieved master’s degrees in their respective fields, and now Alpha is hoping to do the same. His goal is to pursue a Master’s in Health Administration. But what comes after that?

For Alpha, achieving one goal is never an end — it’s an opportunity to think bigger. For his next big goal, “I would like to be a part of the decision-making body to help shape health administration and legislature.” Through his exposure to the professional world and his work with Capital IDEA’s Alumni Network, Alpha has come to appreciate the importance of leadership. We look forward to the impact he’ll have as a leader in the healthcare field and the community, and we’ll continue to cheer him on as he reaches for higher and higher goals.

Capital IDEA provides an opportunity for adults to earn a degree that will enable upward mobility for their lives.

To apply, sign up for an info session: CareerUp »
For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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FEBRUARY 3, 2021

“There’s a real problem here. Why aren’t we solving it?” When she agreed to take on the project, research fellow Sherry Sybesma had no idea there was a problem at all. But after a year spent digging into the complex issues surrounding our region’s nursing shortage, she couldn’t help but sound frustrated. Our communities’ need for nurses has outpaced the supply for over a decade, and the gap keeps growing. She was baffled and disturbed at how such a critical public health issue had gone seemingly unaddressed for such a long time.

Sherry was connected to the nursing shortage research project through Leadership Austin’s Fellows program (LAFP). The LAFP is geared towards professional executives who are retired or mostly retired, who wish to contribute to the community by choosing to undertake a project designated by various non-profit organizations in the city. Sherry chose Capital IDEA’s ‘Associate Degree RNs and the Central Texas Nurse Shortage’ project because, “It looked interesting, and I had heard of Capital IDEA, and everything I heard was positive. Capital IDEA has an amazingly strong and positive image in the community.”

Sherry arrived at Capital IDEA in January of 2020 ready to hit the ground running. The project was originally to be a narrative of the impact of the Central Texas nurse shortage on the work of non-hospital healthcare employees. Sherry had to conduct numerous interviews with non-hospital healthcare professionals at every level, from front line nurses to executives. Utilizing her skills as a seasoned executive, she managed to schedule several interviews right off the bat. But within a few months, the scope of her project took an unexpected turn.

“There’s a real problem here. Why aren’t we solving it?”

What would eventually become the worst pandemic this country had ever seen would tremendously impact her project. “I remember the moment I knew I would have to pivot. I had set up an interview at a long-term care facility. When I arrived, I was hesitant to shake hands, but they assured me they had no cases, and they weren’t worried about shaking hands. Two days after the interview, the facility had to shut down due to a city-wide order.” Shortly after that, interviews Sherry had set up for the project started postponing, and with the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to shut down her project altogether, she realized she would have to move forward however she could.

What was initially meant to be a report filled with first-hand testimonials would eventually become a data-driven summary with as many supporting statements from healthcare professionals as she could get. “Long-term care people were hard to get a hold of. Trying to get an interview with a medical person was nearly impossible.” Hospitals and healthcare facilities were overwhelmed with their short-term needs, and understandably, a researcher looking into long-term needs wasn’t going to get the time of day.

Through her alternative research avenues, Sherry discovered that the ever-widening nursing shortage had been coming on for over a decade. Multiple agencies had documented it at the local, state, and federal levels and projections for the future looked just as bleak. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, demand for nurses in Central Texas is projected to exceed supply into the next decade.[1] Between 2018 and 2032, Central Texas demand for registered nurses (RNs) is projected to grow by 45.8% and supply is projected to grow by 38.1%, for a gap of over 13,000 nurses.[2]

“It was overwhelming to see the nursing gap increasing year after year, and it was clear that we were entering a nursing shortage. And over that time, nursing schools have been turning away tens of thousands of qualified applicants.” According to Sherry’s research, nursing schools across the country rejected over 56,000 qualified applicants from undergraduate nursing programs in 2017. This problem didn’t make sense to her. “As a businessperson, I look at these two things and think, ok, we need more nurses, we have people who want to be nurses, these two things solve each other, why aren’t we doing this?”

Sherry highlighted two critical obstacles preventing schools from accepting and training more applicants: not enough space for clinicals and a shortage of nursing school faculty. From Sherry’s viewpoint, this is an issue of creativity and money. A creative solution is needed to find ways to provide real-life training experiences to nursing students. Sherry believes that “with the many creative ways in which medicine is implemented to solve health problems, why is it so hard to figure out how to get a new nurse more bedside experience?”

As for the shortage of nursing school faculty, Sherry believes this is an issue of money. She asks the question, “what can we do to make people want to go into teaching the nursing profession?” Her answer is to make their salaries competitive with hospital pay. “If they go into teaching, they are essentially taking a pay cut, so it doesn’t make sense to them.” While Sherry sees this as a simple solution and an easy first step to solving the problem, she admits that as an industry outsider and a former Senior Vice President of a successful international company, she doesn’t see this problem the same way someone from the inside would.

“It’s not a they problem; it’s an all of us problem that can’t continue to be ignored without serious consequences for our community.”

Nonetheless, she feels justified in being concerned. In addition to being a numbers problem, the ongoing nursing shortage is also taking a real toll on patient care and self-care for currently employed nurses. According to an RN that Sherry interviewed early on in her project, “the biggest issue for patient care is we’re not just tired, we’re exhausted. I don’t think my patients are getting the attention and care they would if we were fully staffed.” Without a full staff, nurses frequently have “a surge patient load that exceeds the standard staffing matrix.” And as the nursing shortage continues to grow, nurses are being asked to take on added responsibilities, which leads to morale issues and turnover. Sherry remembers speaking to a nurse who’d already reached her limit. “Once this pandemic is over, she is going to quit because it’s too much.” In Sherry’s opinion, nurses are the real heroes, and they are being overworked.

Sherry’s research in hand, Capital IDEA has renewed its commitment to moving this critical issue forward. Executive Director Steve Jackobs has elevated the nursing shortage to a strategic priority within the organization. “We must expand the infrastructures that train our essential healthcare workforce,” he says. “It’s not a they problem; it’s an all of us problem that can’t continue to be ignored without serious consequences for our community.” And moving forward, “we are taking every opportunity to support our healthcare partners, educators, and providers. We’ll fight by their side for the resources and attention this critical issue demands.”

If you know someone who is interested in becoming a nurse, please refer them to our program for assistance with tuition, textbooks, and childcare.

[1] https://www.dshs.texas.gov/chs/cnws/workforcereports/2019/2019_Regionalprofile_statewide_final.pdf
[2] https://www.dshs.texas.gov/chs/cnws/WorkforceReports/2019/2019_RegionalProfile_CentralTexas_FINAL.pdf

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For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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Hello and welcome! We created this form so that our students and graduates would have a way to refer friends and family to our program. Below we will ask you for the information we need to start assessing your eligibility. Once you’re done filling it out, hit submit, and we’ll be in touch soon!


  • Please tell us the first and last name of the student or graduate who referred you.
  • About Me

  • Please list your top 1-3 careers. These can be specific degrees or job titles that interest you. If you need to review, our list of sponsored careers can be found in our Career Directory.
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  • Include yourself, spouse/partner, and dependents. If you have roommates, do not include them.
    Please enter a number from 1 to 12.
  • My Place of Residence

  • Income Eligibility

  • What is the total monthly income for your household? Include your income and your spouse or partner's income. Do not include the income of your roommates or parents (for young adults living at home).
    Please enter a number greater than or equal to 0.
  • Do you receive benefits or other support that be might be counted as income? Ex. child support, food stamps, etc.
  • Contact Information

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DECEMBER 9, 2020

When Juana Patino decided to go to college, she had no idea the kind of ripple effect it would have on her family. As of this post, three of the Patino siblings, Juana, Araceli, and Maria Laura, have all graduated from college with degrees in healthcare and IT. A fourth sister, Maria Rosa, is currently enrolled and expected to graduate in December of 2022. This month’s graduate spotlight features Juana and Araceli Patino, two sisters who struggled and worked hard to achieve their goals, and in doing so, set an example others in their family would follow.

Juana, the first of her siblings to attempt college, graduated from Austin Community College (ACC) as an LVN in 2013 and went on to earn her Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) in 2017. Today, she is a Registered Nurse with MGA Homecare. She chose a nursing career because she “wanted to do something meaningful for the world.” But to get there, she knew it would take a lot of hard work to overcome her challenges.

Juana grew up in Mexico and moved to the United States with her family in 2000. She graduated high school in 2006. As a single teen mom and the sole provider, she got a job immediately after high school. After a year working as a Wal-Mart cashier, she realized she would need a more substantial income to take care of herself and her son. She knew that meant going back to school. The question was, how was she going to pay for it?

Luckily, she remembered hearing about a program called Capital IDEA in high school. She applied and got accepted. As a student in Capital IDEA’s Career Expressway program, Juana’s tuition, books, and school supplies were covered. Capital IDEA also pointed her to other resources that helped her with gas, tutoring services, and childcare.

Relieved that paying for school was no longer an issue, Juana focused on the personal challenges that stood in her way. As the first person in her family to go to college, she had no idea what to expect. “I was nervous about going to college. I felt lost. I took things step by step, just thinking about what I had to do next.” Additionally, as a non-native English speaker, “I really struggled with medical terminology. I had to study harder than everybody else.” Thirdly, her responsibilities as a single mother weighed heavily on her as she strove to keep up with her studies.

“As long as you want to be successful, you’re going to be successful.” – Juana Patino

Mid-way through the program, these and other personal struggles overwhelmed Juana to the point where she felt she needed to drop out. Thankfully, financial assistance was not the only thing she was getting from Capital IDEA. The extra guidance and encouragement from her Career Navigator was exactly what she needed during this difficult time. “My Navigator never gave up on me. She kept calling me. At one point, I was out for a whole year, and if it weren’t for her, I probably would have never come back.” Juana resumed her studies and finished her degree, setting an example for her younger sister Araceli to follow.

Araceli was accepted into the Career Expressway program in 2012, 5 years after Juana first enrolled, and graduated from ACC in 2017. She currently works for Brightstar Homehealth as a Registered Nurse. Although she had an example in her sister, her path to graduation was likewise difficult, and Araceli had her own obstacles to overcome.

After high school, Araceli had little direction. She enrolled at ACC taking general courses, but with no goal in mind, Araceli soon drifted away from college, opting instead to work multiple low-wage jobs in fast food, retail, and cleaning offices in the afternoon. When her sister Juana told her about Capital IDEA and encouraged her to think about a job in healthcare, Araceli took an interest. She earned a short-term credential and found a job as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). But it was her sister’s example that inspired her to keep going, and soon Araceli was back at ACC, this time with a definitive goal of earning her associate’s degree in nursing.


Pictured (from left): The Patino sisters pictured with their grandmother; Juana and her son; Araceli (left) and Juana (right) with their mother.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck and threatened to derail Araceli’s aspirations. During her first semester in the Career Expressway program, her husband traveled to Mexico to visit his mother for her birthday and went missing. The family searched for years, but he was never found. There are no words to convey the loss she felt. To compound matters, she was now a single parent with one income, trying to go to college full-time while raising her two-year-old son. The experience was overwhelming. “I pushed through during the fall semester, and then I took a semester off.”

In a fantastic display of strength and courage, Araceli returned the following summer semester. “I had to finish school. I had to provide for my son. And I also had to finish for my husband.” But going to college as a single parent was challenging. “I had to sacrifice time with my kid and work nights through the nursing program. It was really rough and very hard emotionally. I had to learn to spread my time.” Yet, Araceli stayed focused through it all, and now offers this advice to other single parents in college. “Don’t lose hope. There’s an end to the road. Everything you sacrifice, all your sleepless nights, and all your tiredness and stress and frustration, it’s going to pay off. I see it now.”

For Araceli, support made all of the difference. She had her family around her and Capital IDEA in her corner. “The most meaningful support I received from Capital IDEA was the emotional support I got from Sister Ane. She made me feel loved and supported. Even though she’s tough and pushes you, she always checked on me and reminded me that we were going to get through this.” When things got really rough, Sister Ane tapped into Capital IDEA’s emergency funds to provide a month of rent for Araceli and her son in addition to gift cards that helped her persevere by ensuring their basic needs were met. In the end, it all added up to Araceli getting to where she is today—working in a job she loves with the ability to provide for her son.

“It may feel like it’s impossible, but it’s not. All the sacrifices will be worth it.” – Araceli Patino

Both Juana and Araceli overcame struggles and worked tirelessly to get to where they are. For both of them, it’s not over. They have ambitions to go further, to pursue higher education in the nursing field. Juana aims to become a Nurse Anesthetist, and Araceli plans to get her Bachelor’s Degree in nursing. With the courage and determination they have already displayed in their lives, there is no doubt they will achieve these new goals and a lot more.

Meanwhile, the ripple effect continues in the Patino family. Two other sisters embraced the opportunity to earn college credentials, and their passion for education has reverberated down to their children. “I want to help my kids not settle,” Araceli says. After seeing their mothers go to college, they now believe they can too.

Juana and Araceli hope that their stories of struggle and overcoming challenges inspire others not to settle and to pursue their own success. Juana points to the importance of believing in yourself. “As long as you want to be successful, you’re going to be successful.” Araceli encourages others to keep their eye on the end goal and not to give up. “It may feel like it’s impossible, but it’s not. All the sacrifices will be worth it.”

If you or someone you know is interested in launching a new career, contact us, and let us help you overcome your challenges to reach your career goals.

To apply, sign up for an info session: Career Up »
For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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NOVEMBER 12, 2020

Vision. Perseverance. Support. For Shirlet Oriakhi, these were the things that helped her achieve great things in her life. Inspired by her mother who had a gift for passing on wisdom and knowledge, Shirlet, from an early age, cultivated a vision for herself that included helping others through nursing or teaching. When the opportunity came up to be able to make both a reality, she was ready to seize it.

Shirlet Oriakhi is an Adjunct Professor in the Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) program at Austin Community College (ACC) and the Director of Nursing for LifeSpring Home Health. Shirlet loves teaching, and for that, she credits her mother. “My mom was always teaching me things. She was always asking me questions and making me think. Everything was a teachable moment for her.” For Shirlet, nursing and teaching weren’t career choices, they were callings, but for the longest time, she settled for working multiple jobs to make money. It was one job in particular that helped her realize she wouldn’t be happy as long as she wasn’t doing what she was called to do. She was working in the special crimes unit with the Department of Public Safety, but eventually, everything she saw was too much for her. “I saw a lot of criminal behaviors and things I didn’t like to see. I witnessed a lot of reports that were pretty graphic, and I knew that wasn’t what I wanted for the rest of my life. So, I decided to go to school.” She knew it was time for her to enroll in college, but finances were still a problem.

While attending classes, Shirlet came across a flyer for Capital IDEA. “These people pay for you to go to college?! What’s the catch?!” she recalls thinking. But she really needed the help. “So, I went to a meeting, and it was true!” Capital IDEA came at the perfect time in Shirlet’s life. “I had the vision, and I had the perseverance, but I didn’t have the financial support. My family was encouraging, but I needed the financial support.”

Capital IDEA paid for tuition, bought her books, and helped Shirlet finish college. In addition, they set a foundation for her continued success. For Shirlet, it was the combination of financial support along with confidence building that made all the difference. “The biggest struggle for me was believing I deserved to be in school, despite societal viewpoints of an African-American woman trying to advance herself. That was the biggest struggle—the emotional part.” She recalls people like her Career Navigator, Suzanne Baker, who consistently reminded her that she belonged in college and that she could do it. “After hearing it so much, you tend to believe it.”

After graduating with her Associate Degree in Nursing from ACC, Shirlet pursued her career in nursing. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and her Master of Science in Nursing with a focus on Executive Leadership and Administration, and eventually landed her job as the Director of Nursing for LifeSpring. While that job was satisfying, she never lost the vision she had to be a teacher, her second calling. One day she felt a strong desire pulling her back to ACC, to teach in the LVN program, but she knew her time was already stretched thin, so she decided not to pursue it at that time. Then one fateful evening, Shirlet reconnected with her former ACC professor, Sandra McCrary-Marshall, whom she hadn’t seen since graduating from the program. When she expressed her desire to teach at ACC, Professor McCleary-Marshall extended an invitation that seemed especially made just for her. “Here’s the kicker, she said: ‘Shirlet, I have a program that’s starting for evenings and weekends and I think you’ll be perfect.’” It was a teaching opportunity that fit perfectly with her work schedule. Thirty days later she was hired.

Shirlet has enjoyed every moment as an Adjunct Professor at ACC. Taking after her mother, she sees every opportunity as a teachable moment, which has helped especially during the current pandemic. “I’ve really been trying to keep people calm by educating them. I’ve been trying to keep them from being rattled and stressed out.” While she misses the interaction she used to have with her students, “with social distancing everyone is so stand-off-ish, the interaction is very limited,” she continues to live out her calling by educating people as a nurse and as a professor.

“The things that are in you, the desires you may have, they are there because you have the ability to do them. You just have to cultivate them with vision, perseverance, and support.”

Today, Shirlet is living the vision she had for her life from an early age. She never imagined she could be both a nurse and a teacher. It wasn’t easy, but with perseverance, the right support, and a strong faith, she made it happen. This is the message she continues to inspire her students with: “Things that are in you, the desires you may have, they are there because you have the ability to do them. You just have to cultivate them with vision, perseverance, and support.”

Do you have a desire for a better career? Let us support you as you take the first step towards making that desire a reality. If you or someone you know is interested in launching a new career, contact us, and let’s see how far you can go.

To apply, sign up for an info session: Career Up »
For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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OCTOBER 29, 2020

“The only limits are the ones I create in my mind.” Teresa Garza proclaims these words as she remembers the long journey that brought her to where she is today. From academic probation to a college professor, she never imagined her career would lead her to academics. “I didn’t plan to be a teacher. It wasn’t in the cards.”

Teresa is a Professor and the Assistant Department Chair in the Radiology department at Austin Community College (ACC). She attended college immediately after high school but soon ended up on academic probation. “I wasn’t studying the thing that I enjoyed,” she says, and the lack of enthusiasm showed up in her grades. She took a break and started working at a women’s clothing store making less than $8 an hour. One day, she recalls thinking, “There has to be more to my life than picking up clothes off the floor.” In that very moment, she decided it was time to go back.

Paying tuition is challenging with an $8 an hour job. On top of that, she needed money for books and gas to drive to her classes. As luck would have it, a classmate introduced Teresa to Capital IDEA. “It sounded too good to be true.” Despite her misgivings, she attended an orientation, applied, and got accepted. “They gave me the chance. Once they gave me the chance, I took off running with it and haven’t stopped! Sometimes you just need one person to believe in you, just enough.”

After graduation, Teresa found a job at a local hospital where she spent a lot of her time teaching interns. “They seemed to just gravitate to me and would ask me if I ever thought about teaching.” She continued to dismiss the idea until she was contacted by her former professor who was looking to re-start the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) program at ACC. He asked if she would consider being a professor. Initially, Teresa declined the offer, but after two years of asking and continued encouragement from her interns, she eventually decided to give it a try. “In a weird way, I didn’t choose it. It chose me.” And she has never looked back.

Teresa has been teaching for 11 years now, and she enjoys every bit of it. This past year has presented her with new challenges. Teresa’s a people person, and it is this quality that led her into the teaching profession. The new social distancing protocols have created a lack of personal interaction with students. For an instructor used to making personal connections with her students, it’s been rough. “I feel like I don’t know them. I don’t know their personality type to be able to help them.”

In order to overcome these challenges, Teresa has employed creative methods to increase student interaction, albeit in a virtual space. She meets with a small group of students virtually every week to discuss any issues they might be having with their clinicals and in their personal lives. She’s hosted a few online game sessions outside the regular class times to cultivate some fun. And she’s also switched to doing lectures in a live format, rather than pre-recorded. This allows students to see her and interact verbally via their webcam and through the chat box.

“Sometimes you just need one person to believe in you, just enough.”

Having been a student who once struggled herself, Teresa knows the importance of connecting with her students. She understands the incredible value of having the right support system because she had that in Capital IDEA. “They had everything I needed. Especially the accountability. That helped me a lot. I can’t thank Capital IDEA enough.”

Teresa’s passion for supporting students and making a difference in people’s lives extends beyond the classroom. In 2018, Teresa accepted the position of Alumni Representative to the Capital IDEA Board of Directors. Executive Director, Steve Jackobs, recalls, “When Teresa joined the Board, she brought a critically important voice. She knows from first-hand experience our students, education, and healthcare. Her passion and perspective are invaluable.” As a member of the Board, Teresa is able to provide leadership and vision to the ongoing operations of Capital IDEA and the students they serve. In addition, Teresa has become a spokesperson and advocate at various events to help raise funds and inspire the next generation of applicants.

Teresa continues to do all she can to help students achieve their dreams. Whether speaking as a professor, a board member, or a mentor, she continually reminds us all, “If you persevere and keep working towards your goals, you can achieve everything you’ve dreamed of.”

With perseverance and the right support, the possibilities are limitless for you too. Let us help you take the first step to what could be a great career. If you or someone you know is interested in launching a new career, contact us, and let’s see how far you can go.

To apply, sign up for an info session: Career Up »
For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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OCTOBER 14, 2020

The start of the 2020-21 school year is unlike anything we could have imagined. The classroom has been replaced by a computer screen, and schools are faced with new challenges as they try to create the best learning environment for their students. For teachers like Lori Lucas, adapting to a new mode of teaching has been a challenge, but overcoming challenges is nothing new to Lori.

Lori Lucas is an Associate Professor in the Professional Nursing Department at Austin Community College. Becoming a college professor was not something that Lori had in mind for herself. She’d been a dedicated stay at home mom, caring for her family, stretching a budget, and homeschooling her three children while her husband ran their family’s small business. But when their business started struggling, Lori and her husband realized they needed a second income to make ends meet.

After 16 years at home, Lori not only found it difficult to send her three kids off to school, she also struggled to find a job. Lori knew she needed more education and training in order to get a job that would pay enough to help support her family, but she doubted her abilities to do well in school. “I had no confidence. Growing up, no one ever looked me in the eye and told me I was smart. I always thought I was just not competent.” Thanks to the encouragement from a friend who pushed her and introduced her to Capital IDEA, Lori took the plunge.

At that time, Capital IDEA had a smaller presence in Williamson County, but as luck would have it, a volunteer-lead committee called the Whitlow Education Fund Task Force was hard at work. They were raising funds to expand support for Capital IDEA students from Williamson County. When the enrollment window opened up, Lori applied and was accepted. Capital IDEA was able to provide Lori with tuition, textbooks, and the support she needed to attend nursing school. “They paid for everything—including shoes! When you’re poor, shoes are a big deal.” Lori recalls, in a grateful tone. “It really, really, helped me. It was the most fundamental help I received, and it was so wonderful.”

Lori graduated from ACC with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing. After graduation, Lori was accepted into the St. David’s residency program for graduate nurses working in the emergency department where she became a trauma certified nurse. After years at St. David’s Lori was introduced to hospice care, where she was “forever hooked.” After acquiring her Bachelors of Science in Nursing and a certification in hospice and palliative care, she joined the team at Hospice Austin.

Lori continued her educational journey and earned a Master’s Degree in Nursing, which opened the door for her to become a professor at ACC. “Even before I obtained a job, I always gravitated to sharing information, and mentoring people is a treasure.” With her previous experience homeschooling her children, coupled with her passion for mentoring, teaching made sense. Today, Lori continues to work for Hospice Austin during the school breaks.

Lori credits a lot of her success to the people in her life. “My stories always go back to relationships. Like my friend who helped me. People matter. We matter to each other, and what we do influences one another.” One of those people was Sister Ane Nguyen. Sister Ane was Lori’s Career Navigator throughout her time as a student at ACC. “If I have had any success, it’s because of the support I received from Capital IDEA. Sister Ane had very high expectations for me, and I did not want to disappoint her.”

“If I have had any success, it is because of the support I received from Capital IDEA.”

Lori knows the important role she plays in the lives of her students because she was once a student herself. She is all too familiar with the struggle to succeed and provides the best support she can to help, as friends, family, and Capital IDEA once did for her.

One of the best parts about Lori’s story is that Capital IDEA was only the beginning. Once she’d earned her associate’s degree, she had the confidence to keep going on her own, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Today, Lori is pursuing her doctorate in Organizational Psychology.

Let us help you take the first step to what could be a great career. If you or someone you know is interested in launching a new career, contact us, and let’s see how far you can go.

To apply, sign up for an info session: Career Up »
For questions: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: Qualifications | Career Directory | FAQs


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AUGUST 13, 2020

“Women coming together to make a difference.” This statement sits atop the Seeds of Strength (SoS) website, a giving circle based in Georgetown, Texas. It is a strong statement that perfectly describes the core of who SoS is, and what they’re all about. This group of women, ranging in ages from the mid-20s to well into their 90s, made a choice to pool their resources to make a difference in their community. Since their founding, SoS has awarded 92 grants, totaling $1,538,000 to local non-profit organizations that provide community enriching services in Georgetown.

This generous giving circle is the result of a small group of women with a passion to make a positive impact in their community. According to Lexi Elliott, Member and Former SoS Board Chair, “They realized that the needs of Georgetown would continue to increase as the city grew, so they wanted to create a way for women in the community to learn more about the needs of our Georgetown neighbors and come up with a democratic process for pooling resources and allocating them to non-profits.”

Since 2012, SoS has invested $95,000 in Capital IDEA’s mission. This funding has been used to help Georgetown students attend Austin Community College and provides other resources to assist them throughout their educational journey and helps them land a job in their field. The mission of Capital IDEA is very meaningful to Lexi: “I believe that the benefits to our community are truly immeasurable when you help an underserved community to attain the education and training that they need to pursue a career. The long-term benefits to the individual, their family, and their personal network are compounded and our entire city benefits.”

The significance of SoS’s investment, for Capital IDEA, is how it helps offset the increased cost of Georgetown residents. As Executive Director, Steve Jackobs, reminds us, “Because the city of Georgetown is outside the Austin Community College Taxing District, tuition for these students is significantly higher than their in-district counterparts.” The higher tuition rate makes it difficult for individuals like Lissette Padro, a Capital IDEA graduate from Georgetown, to attend college without assistance.

Lissette Padro with her 3 kids at her daughter’s graduation.

Lissette’s story is one of hope and serves as a beautiful example of how a community of people can provide the support needed to rise from a difficult situation. Lissette was a victim of domestic violence, which led to divorce. Her life as a single mom to three kids, with no child support, was made more difficult because a lack of education limited her to low-wage jobs. Lissette knew she needed a better paying job to provide for her kids. Capital IDEA was the opportunity she needed to make that a reality. Going to school as a single parent with three kids wasn’t easy, but she was determined. With a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, and the support of her Capital IDEA Career Navigator, she was able to make the grades needed to be accepted into the highly competitive Dental Hygienist program at Austin Community College, and eventually graduate.

Lissette is one of many examples of Seeds of Strength’s life-changing impact and generosity. Without their support, Capital IDEA would not be able to help as many students in Georgetown. Thank you SoS for your support, passion, and dedication to improving communities. For more information about Seeds of Strength, you can visit their website at: https://seedsofstrength.org/.

If you’d like to support Capital IDEA, and empower your neighbors with educational opportunities, click here to make a donation, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@captial_idea_atx) to share our message with your own community.

1900+

Capital IDEA students have been placed in new careers

3X

Most graduates TRIPLE their previous earnings

$24/hr

was the average starting wage for all 102 job placements in 2020 including 5 early placements

1196

individuals received direct support from Capital IDEA in 2020

$22M+

has been invested in our students’ tuition and books since Capital IDEA first opened in 1998

Guide Star Gold

News & Events

Job Posting: Executive Director of Capital IDEA

JANUARY 19, 2022 On January 13th, founding Executive Director Steve Jackobs announced his plans to retire in August of 2022. Capital IDEA’s Board of Directors has begun the search for a successor to continue Steve Jackob's legacy and ensure even more of our low-income neighbors succeed in education, enter skilled occupations, and reach their full […] Read More

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