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RSCC celebrates health grant

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Secretary of Labor delivers good news at Oak Ridge campus

By Cindy Simpson

Hilda Solis, U.S. Secretary of Labor, got a birds-eye view of how Roane State will use its portion of $12.57 million in grant funds from the RX-Tennessee grant.

The funds were awarded to a consortium led by Roane State and including the Tennessee Board of Regents’ community colleges and Tennessee Technology Centers.

“This was a competitive process. This was a national competition and, of course, your state, this campus, came out ahead. I’m very pleased to be here today to make this announcement,” Solis said.

“I can tell there is a lot of cooperation with the business community in town here and around the state,” she said. “That’s why I am happy to be here today to say that the Department of Labor has made this award of $12.6 million to this campus as the lead consortium, the fiscal agent, for the monies that will involve 40 state community colleges and technology centers to train your folks here to get into the health care industry, to get good, successful and sustainable jobs,” Solis said.

Solis said Roane State has shown a strong understanding of how key workforce development is with its relationships with business communities.

“We hope that other community colleges and other institutions that are in the workforce training efforts will take that cue and understand we have to be focused on what our goal is and our goal is preparing a workforce,” Solis said.

Major initiatives under the grant will be the creation and expansion of several health science programs and offering them to students at more community colleges and technology centers. 

The funds will help the schools work together to deliver health science courses to students, an example being a collaboration between Cleveland State, Chattanooga State and Roane State to offer a two-year degree in occupational therapy assistant. Roane State already offers the program, but Cleveland State and Chattanooga State do not. The grant will help the colleges pool their resources to provide it at all three campuses. 

A press release from the event said the goal is to help more than 1,500 Tennesseans earn healthcare credentials within the next four years.

The grant will also provide completion coaches at all TBR community colleges and technology centers to help students make an academic plan, use career-planning and counseling resources and guide them through the college process.

The grant will help fund a new two-year Surgery Technology Associate of Applied Science degree between Walters State Community College and Roane State. Cleveland State will participate through a shared laboratory model, which has students taking classes at Cleveland but traveling to Roane State or Walters State for labs.

The grant will also help expand Roane State’s two-year occupational therapy assistant degree to Cleveland State and Chattanooga State, with students traveling to shared lab space at Roane State. 

The expansion of Roane State’s Allied Health Science AAS degree to several community colleges across the state will also be accomplished, thanks to the grant. 

The grant will also help toward developing an online licensed practical nurse to registered nurse training program for nine community colleges with nursing programs. 

Other grant funds will go toward making Volunteer State’s medical informatics program a hybrid/online model available at six colleges. Hybrid is a class that is a mixture of on-site and online courses. 

The grant will also help to redesign three Roane State programs, including patient care assistant training, phlebotomy and emergency management dispatcher into hybrid/online courses available at other community colleges. 

A former student shared her success story at Roane State. A Morgan County native, Loretta Starnes said she was a pregnant teen and high school dropout when she got her GED and began her college experience at Roane State.

Starnes is a graduate of the Roane State Occupational Therapy Assistant program at the school and the Roane State 2012 President’s Award winner. She now works as a certified occupational therapy assistant at Jefferson County Nursing Home, Dandridge. 

“My work is rewarding, and I’m honored to be able to make a difference in the lives of our patients each day. Most importantly, I am an example to my children and those around me of the importance of education, and I’m able to contribute economically to my family and community,” Starnes said. She plans to obtain a master’s in occupational therapy. 

“I’m honored to know my alma mater at Roane State played such a critical role in obtaining this grant,” Starnes said. “As the wife and mother of two active boys. returning to school was the least of my fears. It was the expectation and demands that school would require of me in  addition to the obligations of my family. I faced challenges and obstacles daily that said to me I was not college material and withdrawing was the only logical answer. That changed when I discovered the support services offered to students such as myself here at Roane State.” 

“RX-Tennessee will provide many students like me the opportunity to succeed in college and successfully complete difficult healthcare training programs,” Starnes added. 

Deb Miller, Roane State director of grants development, said Starnes was the type of student that this grant was geared toward.

“Ladies and gentleman, I don’t know about you, but this is what this grant is all about,” she said.  

The grant is part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative. The Department of Labor is coordinating the program with the U.S. Department of Education. 

Fifty-four grants across the county were announced Sept. 19. 

The college also showcased their plans to expand the Oak Ridge campus, with a $13.8 million three-story building that will include space for new programs, faculty offices, new classes and new labs. It is scheduled to be open January 2014. 

New programs such as surgical technology and medical lab technology will be offered with the new building. 

Roane State’s occupational therapy assistant program will be housed in the new building. The new building will include additional space for nursing students, massage therapy students and pharmacy technician students.

The pharmacy technician class is currently at the Roane County campus but will be moving.

Michael Laman, dean of allied health science division, said it was a logical decision because there is no adequate space at the Roane campus and it will give more students access to the course.

“The reason for moving the pharmacy technician program is they need to be in a state of the art facility,” Laman said. He said retrofitting at the Roane campus will be much more expensive than the additional space in the new building.

He said the mobility of students and classrooms today makes the location of the classes less important than ever. 

Laman said clinicals will still be done in Roane County. 

He added that the respiratory therapy class is also not drawing the population in Roane County, but the college still plans to do clinicals at Roane Medical Center.