Juggling work, school, family, and life can be difficult for anyone, but Casondra Smith, a young mother in Pike County, is making it work by taking advantage of every opportunity to better her life and create a good life for her son.
Smith met Big Sandy Area Community Action Program Career Advisor Jackie Blackburn who knew she would be a perfect fit for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program for In-School Youth. Blackburn started helping Smith put herself on a strong path while she was still at Shelby Valley High School by working with her to find employment.
The In-School Youth Program available through BSACAP helps low-income young people gain work experience, find career counseling and academic tutoring, and gives them 12 months of mentoring to ensure their continued success.
Through the relationship they built, Blackburn was able to find several more ways to help Smith stay on the path to success. When Smith graduated from high school, Blackburn assisted her with information about college scholarships and housing arrangements for single parents. “Jackie is very nice. You can really tell she loves her job,” Smith said.
Beginning her second year at Big Sandy Community and Technical College, Smith, who is studying Human Services, is excited for her new classes. “I’m excited to start my clinicals next year, and this year I’ll be starting my psychology and sociology classes,” she said.
Smith is taking advantage of the opportunity to live in the Scholar House in Pikeville, apartments for single parents who are enrolled in school, have their child enrolled in daycare, and agree to keep up their grades and pay part of the cost of living in the apartment. “They’re very nice apartments. And it’s all about school and studying, so it’s really helpful,” she said.
Smith was recently awarded the Community Services Block Grant Scholarship that is distributed by BSACAP and made available to low-income students to help with their college expenses. Smith said she plans to use the scholarship money to help her take of her son while she is in school.
Smith said, “I dread [going back to school], but I’m excited at the same time. I know I’m going to be taking harder classes this year, but I’m excited to graduate and get into a job.”
Smith’s Career Advisor Jackie Blackburn said, “Cassie is a bright girl, and she is so dedicated to succeeding in making a better life for her son. She was an excellent participant in our program, and her strong drive and perseverance is going to take her far.”
Funding for the Youth Program is made possible by the Workforce Investment and Opportunities Act of 2014 and the U.S. Department of Labor through the Department of Training and Re-Employment and the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP). The Scholarship Program is made possible by Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) with funds made available by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Big Sandy Area Community Action Program is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a vast array of services, such as employment and training assistance, weatherization of homes, and area Head Start programs, in order to assist individuals and families in obtaining self-sufficiency. Through collaborative efforts of community and organizational partnerships, BSACAP seeks to improve the overall quality of life within the Floyd, Johnson, Martin, Magoffin, and Pike County communities. To learn more about BSACAP and their programs, visit www.bsacap.org or call the service office in your county.