Working Together Program assists Valley parents in need

ALAMOSA — San Luis Valley nonprofit organizations, businesses and education providers, along with the Colorado Office of Early Childhood, have joined forces in the “Working Together Program” to improve the lives of qualifying legal residents in Alamosa, Costilla and Saguache counties. Trinidad State helps with the education piece of the partnership by overseeing GED or Job Certificate needs. 

When the Working Together Program flyer arrived in Allyson Ray’s mail, she decided it would be her chance to get back to school and earn her GED. She had dropped out of high school because she was bored and online schooling didn’t go well. 

“Every day I actually look forward to going in and studying for my GED at Trinidad State,” said Ray. “Everyone is extremely helpful and friendly and it’s an atmosphere that makes you want to succeed and go that extra mile.

The teachers there are super incredible. They genuinely care about each student and we are actually learning the stuff we are working on!”

Ray began her studies in August and has passed her math and science exams. “I chose math first because it is hardest and then science because it has math in it and I wanted to stay fresh in math,” said Ray. 

She is ready to test in social studies and is working on her last chapter in language arts. Her second baby is due in January and she wants to complete the social studies and language portions of the testing before he arrives. She is considering Law Enforcement or Emergency Medical Services to further her education. She wants to do something that helps people.

Ray added, “They have a program within Working Together called Parents as Teachers. It meets bi-weekly and even my 4-year old looks forward to it. Not only is the Working Together Program helping with my future but also with being a better parent.”

To date 61 families are enrolled in the program, which operates out of La Llave (Spanish for “the key”) at 801 State Street in Alamosa. Of those, 33 are working toward certificates and 21 are focused on earning a GED, almost all at Trinidad State, which is only eight blocks away from La Llave. The goal is to reach 150 families by grant’s end, November 2018.

In addition to assistance with educational goals and home visits for parenting, families are being assisted with basic needs like housing, financial coaching, securing jobs, child care and more depending on the need.

Requirements include:

• Legal residency in Alamosa, Costilla or Saguache counties

• Must have children under 5 years of age

• Participation in a home visiting program about parenting and child health and development

At no cost to them, participants can work toward a GED, a job certificate or a better job. Many training fees are provided by an innovation grant through the Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV). Mary Alice Cohen, MIECHV program manager for the Colorado Office of Early Childhood, says the Valley was chosen to apply for this opportunity because “the Valley had been experiencing challenging social issues like homelessness, extreme poverty, and substance abuse.”

When Tammara Gurreri’s mother-in-law suggested that Tammara could train to be a Certified Nurse Assistant, the idea appealed to Tammara, but she needed help. 

After seeking assistance at the Workforce Center in Alamosa and then La Puente, Gurreri was referred to Adelante for housing help and to the La Llave Family Resource Center in Alamosa where the Working Together Program is being administered. She was asked if she had a child under 5 (see requirements above).  Her son, Hunter, is now 8 months old.

After Gurreri was evaluated to determine if she would be able to complete the CNA course work, she took the seven-week program. During this time, she and Hunter received two home visits per week related to parenting and child development.

Gurreri doesn’t feel like she would be where she is today without the help she received through the Working Together Program. She has passed the written part of the CNA test and needs to pass the skill test. She is currently working at the San Luis Care Center. 

“I really enjoyed my classes. There was a lot of hands-on work. I’d like to go back to school and work up to an RN (Registered Nurse). This is awesome. I really enjoy the residents and I hope they enjoy me,” said Gurreri.

Toni Steffens-Steward, assistant director for La Llave, credits the parents for making their dreams come true. “Our families work incredibly hard to reach goals to make their families more successful. We’re here to help them any way we can.”

To apply call La Llave before January 12, 2018, at (719) 589-9688.

Caption: Allyson Ray, who is earning her GED with the help of the Working Together Program, cuddles at home with her 4-year old son, Joseph./Courtesy photo by Margaret Sanderson