Project OPEN continues to lift up low-income Osceola residents

Fifteen students graduated from the Project OPEN program on Dec. 15. They were trained to be certified nursing assistants. Submitted Photo

By Jennifer DiDomenico

For the News-Gazette

Community Vision hosted its certified nursing assistant (CNA) graduation on Dec. 15 at Florida Hospital Kissimmee to celebrate the students living in poverty who have successfully obtained their nursing assistant certification through Project OPEN.

“This was our sixth CNA group to celebrate their graduation,” said Project OPEN

Fifteen students graduated from the Project OPEN program on Dec. 15. They were trained to be certified nursing assistants. Submitted Photo

Director Emily Moreland. “We have a 97 percent graduation rate and 92 percent of our graduated students are now working in the field, many at Florida Hospital in Kissimmee, Celebration and South Orlando. These students and this program keep my blood pumping. We are so very proud.”

Founded in 2013 through the OPEN Task Force, Project OPEN is an educational program funded through donations and grants from Osceola County and the city of Kissimmee with a mission to provide opportunity and training in high demand fields such as nursing.

The CNA program hosts 15 qualifying students per three-month course. Students are referred to Community Vision for Project OPEN’s programs through partner agencies such as Help Now, A Place for Grace, Transition House and more. The overall goal is to give these students an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty by helping provide the necessary elements to enter a career field.

“The only way to help people find a way out of poverty is education and employment that pays a living wage. You can witness how Project OPEN participants overcome so many challenges and – for such a small investment – achieve their goals, destroying stereotypical attitudes surrounding poor people in the process,” said Community Vision Executive Director Donna Sines.

Project OPEN provides students with tuition costs, books, scrubs and orientation to help students learn how to balance school, homework, work and parenting. Students are also provided with insurance, transportation to school and sometimes housing throughout the length of the program.

“No one should go without a roof over their head while they’re in school,” said Moreland. “We help to provide those necessary means to get them on track for a career.”

Project OPEN offers additional programs, such a new partnership with Valencia’s construction program. Though these courses do not guarantee students a job at the end of the program, students are certified and trained in specific areas and guided through mock interviews before graduation.

“It is such a personal victory for each and every one of [the students],” said Sines. “There is a moment when the door opens and lets the future in. A small pin allows them to take a giant step toward a better tomorrow. I couldn’t be prouder of the future health care workers and my staff.”

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