Central Community College graduate Angela Cuffe of Elgin has been selected as the 2016 National Success Story by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Family Assistance.
She will be flown to Washington D.C. for the Health Profession Opportunity Grant (HPOG) national conference on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 to give a presentation on how CCC and Project HELP assisted her in achieving academic and career success.
Project HELP – which stands for Health Education Laddering Program – is the product of a $9.5 million grant that CCC received in 2010 and was re-awarded in 2015. It is designed to help low-income individuals overcome barriers to success, whether they want to complete short-term training or work toward a diploma or degree.
Through Project HELP, students can enroll in the nursing assistant, medication aide, medical assisting, medical laboratory technician, occupational therapy assistant, health information management systems, emergency medical technician/paramedicine, licensed practical nursing and registered nursing programs at CCC.
Assessment of skills ensures that students begin at the appropriate level of education. They then have access to a variety of support services such as scholarships, laptops, scrubs and stethoscopes, school supplies, gas cards and transportation vouchers, information about job openings and preparation for job interviews. Project HELP also works with community agencies to ensure any other needs students may have are being met.
Cuffe first heard about Project HELP in 2011, but she already had spent years working toward becoming a nurse, a goal she set on an elementary school trip to the Norfolk hospital.
At age 16, she got a good start to her goal by earning a CNA (certified nursing assistant) license in 1994. Then she got married and had four children, who she ended up raising and supporting by herself when her marriage ended.
In 2004, she made a commitment to continue her education, not only to support her children but also to be true to her long-term goal. She earned a medication aide license through CCC and began the prerequisite courses for the licensed practical nursing (LPN) program.
She was admitted to the LPN program in 2010, but still continued to work full-time as a CNA and medication aide at a long-term care facility. Her daily routine began at 4 a.m. with a 150-mile drive to her six-hour class, after which she stayed late to prepare procedures for her residents. She then drove home to cook and care for her children and spend the rest of the night studying and doing more prep and paperwork for her job before falling into bed at 1 a.m.
Getting accepted into Project HELP provided her with some much-needed services that eventually helped her complete her education.
In 2012, she walked across the stage at CCC’s Columbus Campus to be pinned as a practical nursing graduate and the following summer, she passed her boards.
She is now the LPN administrator at Prairie View Assisted Living in Tilden and also serves as the LPNAN regional ambassador for Nebraska Region III and as secretary for the northeast district of the Nebraska Health Care Association.
“I can honestly say that fighting my way up to become a nurse was the best decision I have ever made,” Cuffe said. “When I look back on my life and where I was, the situations I’ve been in, and what I have accomplished, it makes me proud to know that if you want to accomplish something, you can. All you have to do is have faith and put your mind to it.”