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 17, 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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DATE: 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 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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PUBLISHED 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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PUBLISHED 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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PUBLISHED 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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PUBLISHED 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.

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PUBLISHED 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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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!


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PUBLISHED 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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PUBLISHED 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
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PUBLISHED 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
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PUBLISHED 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
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PUBLISHED 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.

Join Our Team
Capital IDEA is looking for an experienced case manager (3+ years of experience working with adults receiving direct services and/or high school students transitioning into college). The Career Navigator provides case management for about 80-100 adult students and guides them through the successful completion of their academic plan in preparation for job placement. To be considered, 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, and how you’ve contributed to effective teams in the past.

About Capital IDEA
At Capital IDEA, we’ve built a diverse and dedicated team that shares a passion for our mission. 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 1,600 Central Texans have launched new careers and secured a brighter future for themselves and their families. 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
Start by reading the full job description and qualifications: Career Navigator Job Description PDF »
Next, email resume and cover letter with salary requirements to Program Manager, William Askew, Jr. employment_ci@capitalidea.org.
Deadline to apply: Friday, July 24, 2020
Salary range: $44-46,000

PUBLISHED JUNE 26, 2020

Dear Friends,

As the Chair of Capital IDEA’s Board of Directors, I’m pleased to share our 2019 Annual ReportRead Now ». In previous years, this would have arrived in your inbox in April, but this year has been different for us all.

As I revisit 2019 through the lens of an annual report, I see an organization I am proud to be a part of — it is steady, stable, and thoughtfully charting a course for future growth.

Fast forward to today, 2020 has challenged us all in new ways. I’m proud of how Capital IDEA’s staff have risen to the challenge of serving our students amid a global pandemic, reinventing, and retooling our core program, as needed. Our funders, partners, and community of supporters have met our needs and the needs of our students in countless ways.

We’ve long believed that Central Texas is a special place, a pool of talent, intelligence, compassion, and potential. But we didn’t know the depths until this year. I invite you to spend some time with our 2019 Annual Report. Enjoy the backward look and know that the 2020 Annual Report will attempt to convey all of our gratitude to you — the amazing, unshakable community of Central Texas. We are steadily moving forward for you and because of you.

Sincerely,

Melynda Caudle
Board Chair, Capital IDEA
President and CEO, Cooper Consulting Company



2019 Annual Report PDF – Read Now »


PUBLISHED JUNE 22, 2020

Tania Santiago-Kelly will do whatever it takes, going to extraordinary lengths to reach her goals and provide for her family. Over 14 years ago, Tania was living in Mexico with her son. In order to make ends meet, she worked three jobs. One of which paid her five dollars per day, with no overtime. She could work over 10 hours and still only bring home five dollars. For Tania, something had to change. She knew she had the drive to make it, she just needed an opportunity.

In 2006, Tania and her son emigrated from Mexico to the United States. “In Mexico, sometimes you get an opportunity. Here you have the opportunity.” With only $200 in her pocket, Tania did what she knew to do — she secured another three jobs: cleaning houses, making tacos, and working as an administrator. With her English being almost non-existent, her employment opportunities were limited to low-wage jobs. But if it took working three jobs to support her and her son, that’s what Tania would do.

“In Mexico, sometimes you get an opportunity. Here you have the opportunity.”

Eventually, Tania married, and along with her husband, Mike, they began to dream of buying a home where they could raise their family. They would get one step closer to that dream when her priest, Fr. Joe Tomei of St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church, told Tania about a program called Capital IDEA. The program would be able to provide Tania with the opportunity she had longed for. By paying for her college education, Capital IDEA could prepare Tania for a professional career, one that paid a living wage, and gave her advancement options. English would still be a problem, but after discussing her situation, Capital IDEA approved English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes to prepare her for college.

The road to graduation wasn’t easy, but with the support of Suzanne Baker, Tania’s Capital IDEA Career Navigator, as well as her husband, Mike, she pushed through. “It was hard. I was in my 40s. I’m from Mexico, and I had to learn the language. Also, I had to do a lot of studying to learn the medical language. But Suzanne was very good at guiding me by giving me very high goals. I wanted a house, and I wanted to pay for college for my son. I think that’s why I didn’t quit.” Her husband Mike was a tremendous help by encouraging her and carrying the extra load at home to provide time and space for Tania to focus on her studies. Eventually, in 2016, after 10 years in the United States (two years spent in ESOL classes, almost three years earning prerequisite college credits, and a year and a half in the vocational nursing program at Austin Community College), Tania was finally ready for her new career as a Licensed Vocational Nurse. So, she went to work.

In 2020, as daily life shifted and the world first started responding to what would soon escalate into a global pandemic, Tania once again, had an enormous challenge to face. With senior citizens being some of the most vulnerable people, nursing homes all over the country began implementing strict safety procedures. At Brodie Ranch Nursing and Rehab Center, where Tania works, they put in place strict protocols, asking their employees to go above and beyond at work and at home to keep their patients safe. “If we want to keep our jobs we had to follow some strict rules outside of the nursing home. The administrator told us we could only go shopping once a week, or try to go once every two weeks. And if we go out, we need to wear our masks and our gloves. We also had to keep strict cleaning procedures at home and to make sure everything is sterile. Because if COVID-19 came into the nursing home, it would be from one of us.”

Tania was required to keep her house clean and sterile by CDC and WHO guidelines. This included things like wearing gloves for all cleaning and disinfection. In addition to using soap and water to clean surfaces, an EPA approved disinfectant also had to be used. All high touch surfaces have to be cleaned on a regular basis, including things we usually don’t think of like doorknobs and light switches.

“You get into nursing because you have the heart and passion to save lives.”

For now, Tania’s job has encompassed her personal life, but she continues to persevere as she always has. Her life has prepared her for these difficult times, and she understands this is all part of being a nurse. This career choice is not just about the salary. “You get into nursing because you have the heart and passion to save lives. It’s hard sometimes because as a nurse you can get contaminated, but our mission is to save lives and keep people safe.” Tania has spent her whole life rising to the occasion, and in a time when lives depend on a nurse’s capacity to go above and beyond, it’s Tania and others like her that we’re so grateful to have on the front lines keeping us and our loved ones safe.

At Capital IDEA, we envision a thriving Central Texas where non-traditional students like Tania have the opportunity to get an education, earn a living wage, and reach their full potential.  As Tania’s story shows, sometimes you have to go to extraordinary lengths to take advantage of an opportunity and rise to your full potential. If you’re ready to do the work, we’re ready to support your education and help you get into your future career. Get Started »


To learn more, sign up for an info session: Career Up »
To ask a question, contact us at: 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org
Quick links: QUALIFICATIONS | CAREER DIRECTORY | FAQS

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PUBLISHED JUNE 5, 2020

The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Ramos, and so many, many others confront us forcefully and inescapably with the violent racism endured by our Black neighbors, colleagues, students, friends, and family. We must not forget. It demands that we listen deeply and attentively. We must act.

We, as individuals and as an organization, will stand with our Black students, neighbors, and community. We will tune in to the messages of our local Black leaders and social justice organizations and we will amplify their voices.

For more than 20 years, we have worked in communities of color to empower individuals with an opportunity for education and a better life. Working in these communities has taught us that change at an individual level is only the beginning. Lasting change must happen at a systemic level, which is why we will continue our efforts to increase voter registration and voter turnout, and we will impress upon our neighbors the vital importance of being counted.

A commitment to dignity and prosperity for all is at Capital IDEA’s core. Success in education and career are essential for a prosperous community. But not enough. We acknowledge that racism is deeply embedded in our institutions, neighborhoods, and history. We know that implicit bias can go undetected and do great harm. In the coming weeks and months, we will not shrink from asking ourselves tough questions. And if we find we can do more, do better — we will.

We are all in this together — listening, learning, and acting.

Melynda Caudle

President, Cooper Consulting
Board Chair

Rev. Katie Wright
Associate Rector, St. David’s Episcopal Church
Central Texas Interfaith
Vice Chair

Steve Jackobs
Executive Director

PUBLISHED APRIL 29, 2020

“If I have the skills, what am I doing sitting back?” There is a sense of purpose and conviction in Irene’s voice as she expresses that sentiment from her hotel room in New Jersey. Irene Reyna, Capital IDEA alumnae, just spent the day settling into what will be her new home for the next 10 weeks. Responding to a deep sense of purpose, Irene took a courageous step and volunteered to go to the New York City area to help with the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “Think about those nurses. There’s only a certain amount per patient that are sick, and they’re so run down. I know I can’t help the world, but if I can help those nurses have one more day off or two, that would be worth it.”

Irene is a Registered Nurse at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. A single mother who has raised 3 sons, she realized over 16 years ago that she could not provide for her family working as a waitress, and she needed to do something else. “I have one life to live, and I want to live with choices.” When Irene heard about Capital IDEA from her sister, she thought it was too good to be true. After some investigation, Irene applied and was accepted into the Career Expressway program offered by Capital IDEA. She was pregnant with her second child, due in November, and planning to start school in January. Unfortunately, her baby was born with complications. “I called Capital IDEA and told them my situation, and they held my spot for an entire year. For them to have waited for me for a year, that meant a lot to me. That meant to me that they were true with their commitment.”

Irene was finally able to start, but going back to school was hard for her. “I remember Sundays was McDonald’s day. We would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner there. The kids would play on the indoor playscape while I studied. I had to be very disciplined.” The support that Capital IDEA gave was instrumental in helping her through this time. “I knew that I had support from Capital IDEA, like if I needed tutoring or childcare.” Irene will be forever grateful for the commitment Capital IDEA made to her and her family. Her Career Navigator, Maria Mora, was a tremendous source of support and guidance for her. “I was a brand new mom. Yes, I was an adult, but I wasn’t prepared to be one. I had an awesome counselor that stood by me.”

Irene graduated in 2007 with her A.D.N. (Associate’s Degree in Nursing) from Austin Community College. “If Capital IDEA hadn’t given me the opportunity to get my degree, I don’t know where I would be today.” Years later, she continued her education, and in the Spring of 2017, she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Grand Canyon University. “If I would’ve believed the people that said it was too hard, there would be no way I could afford to provide for my family. Now I know I can take care of my children. I’m stable and able to pay my bills.” It is this same courage that helped her tackle her rigorous degree programs that has driven Irene to the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.

“This is my opportunity to step up. I know it’s going to be dangerous, but this is what we were trained for.” With the blessing and support of her children, Rodolfo (21), Oscar (20), and Joshua (11), the youngest who will be staying with his older brother while she’s away, Irene set off to the northeast to utilize her training and skills to be a part of the solution. A small bright spot to her heading to New York is that Irene will be able to do the work she’s called to without the stress of exposing her family to the virus when she returns home each night. As of this post, it has been reported that New York City has over 135,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus with around 10,000 deaths. “People in Texas seem to not be worried about this. Probably if they saw the rooms full of bodies, where their families aren’t able to say goodbye, they would understand how real this is. Just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Irene urges everyone to only go out for the essentials, stay home, and wash your hands.

Irene believes that being a nurse is about loving people. “We want our families to have the best of care. I took an oath to be there for people and care for them in the very best way I can.” Capital IDEA is proud to #SupportNurses and is proud of all its graduates in the healthcare industry putting themselves out there on the frontlines of this pandemic.

If you’re interested in a rewarding career in healthcare, you can get started with an associate’s degree, and we can help you earn it. Get Started »

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


SUBSCRIBE TO NEWS & EVENTS | Don’t miss our next blog post!




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

Support Spotlight – Career Placement

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 […] Read More

For previous stories visit us here

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