|Neighbors Link Northern Westchester and Westchester Community College|
Defining the Problem that Brought the Team Together
Immigrants are poised to contribute to the state-wide need for healthcare workers, and would provide the additional benefit of being bi-lingual. The number of immigrants in Westchester County has grown significantly over the last decade or more. Limited English proficiency creates integration barriers for immigrants, and the level of language proficiency required to enroll in healthcare education programs requires a significant investment in time and money. Currently, there are relatively few opportunities for immigrants with limited English language proficiency to enter healthcare programs that provide language contextualization, enabling participants to both gain job skills and concurrently develop English language skills. While successful instructional models, such as I-Best, present examples of how contextualization can accelerate the path to credential attainment and job placement, widespread implementation of this model has not occurred in Westchester County.
Description of the Partners
Located in Valhalla, New York, Westchester Community College (WCC) was founded in 1946. Enrollment at the College includes over 13,000 full- and part-time college credit students each semester; Continuing Education and Workforce training students bring the total number of individuals served by the college each semester to more than 24,000. The mission of WCC is to provide accessible, high quality and affordable education to meet the needs of our diverse community. We are committed to student success, academic excellence, workforce development, economic development and lifelong learning. The members of the college community strive to address the mission through all activities, and by providing access to education on the Valhalla Campus, at five full-service, hub extension centers, five school-based education sites, and throughout the County at community-based agency sites.
Original Work Plan
As such, the Home Companion curriculum was developed by the team and is ready to enroll students in January 2016. The program will train immigrant students in non-medical services for seniors and adults with physical challenges. Home Companions will not only provide companionship but also encourage independence. The initial cohort will be comprised of 12-16 immigrant candidates who will be recruited by NL and identified as having a high potential for success through initial screening. WCC will assess the English skills for each of these students for program readiness. The Home Companion Certificate will be the first step in the career pathway. Completers of HC will be eligible for the Personal Care Aide Certificate and completers of that certificate could pursue the Home Health Aide Certificate, both offered by WCC.
To ensure enrollment, the team developed an image for marketing materials including flyers, postcards, and a newspaper ad was put into circulation in early December 2015. On December 21, 2015, the team presented an open house to engage the community and build excitement about the new program.
Because the team has extensive experience working with immigrants and immigrant workers, they knew that comprehensive student supports are critical to ensuring retention and success. Thus, NL established a wrap-around services plan for students. NL will provide a half-hour dinner before each 2.5 hour class and childcare services as part of the wrap-around services plan. Each block of class/community building time will be three hours. NL also created the format for three learning facilitator meetings in the beginning, middle, and end of the course to support the students at crucial junctures. This comprehensive support plan will help the team achieve their goal of enrolling and completing 12-16 immigrant Home Companions.
Impact of the Initiative and Lessons Learned
The initial plan was to develop the Home Health Aide certificate. However, when realizing that this curriculum required strong communication skills the team needed to reconsider. After assessing the English language skills of many of their clients, the team reorganized and decided that Home Companion was a better first step. Currently, the team is exploring alternative education for clients who are interested in the program but do not yet meet the ESL requirements.
The team encountered some unexpected state licensing challenges when developing the program. Every conversation with staff in the NY State Education Department and NY State Department of Health offices raised new questions and issues. Nonetheless, these conversations proved to be productive in removing roadblocks for immigrants such as registry and certification issues.
The team encountered one final challenge. In developing the marketing materials, they could not find a Spanish equivalent for the name “Home Companion.” None of the translations seemed suitable. In the end, the team decided to just use the English term “Home Companion” for the Spanish marketing materials realizing that the name itself carried weight and could be used whether a student was speaking in Spanish or English.
Future Plans and Sustainability of the Partnership