COLUMBUS — The largest grant Central Community College has received will help low-income students achieve educational goals.

The $11.9 million Health Profession Opportunity Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families will be used to fund and further develop the existing Project HELP (Health Education Laddering Program).

A previous Health Profession Opportunity Grant worth $9.5 million was awarded to the college in 2010 to begin Project HELP, an income-based program for people interested in health care-related careers.

“This is going to expand services and pieces of that,” said Marcie Kemnitz, dean of health sciences at CCC.

The five-year grant will be used to shift the focus from short- to long-term training of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients and other low-income individuals who want careers in the health care field. The shift will include helping people earn Associate of Applied Science degrees, which lead to better-paying jobs.

CCC is partnering with Mid-Plains, Northeast and Southeast community colleges for the program. Kemnitz said health care careers are in high demand and that demand grows each year because of the aging population and retirement of health care workers.

The program served about 1,500 students during its first five years. Reaching that many individuals over the next five years is the goal, Kemnitz said. Hopes are to have the majority of participants complete basic skills training and obtain employment in a health care occupation. Another goal is for participants to attain more than 1,000 degrees, diplomas or industry-recognized credentials.

Kemnitz said low-income individuals have more barriers to overcome to be successful in college. This program can help alleviate some of those obstacles through tuition assistance, as well as tutoring services, transportation assistance and career placement.

The partnership between the community colleges will allow more people to be served through Project HELP. Those colleges will share existing programs, which allows participants to take many degree requirements through online classes and do clinicals in local communities.

The grant will also fund a medical assisting satellite lab in Norfolk and develop a new pharmacy technology program.

“We’re really working with other community colleges to provide these health education programs to the people who want and need them. We want to provide strong support throughout the process so those students get employed in the end,” Kemnitz said.

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