WEI Graduation Ceremony at Rock Valley College

On Friday, May 31, Rock Valley College proudly celebrated the graduation of its Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) participants.

WEI ceremony

Roary Price reflects on his accomplishments during the WEI ceremony on May 31, 2024.

The ceremony marked a significant milestone for students who have dedicated themselves to short-term educational programs designed to enhance their employability and secure meaningful careers.

The WEI program at Rock Valley College is committed to fostering educational and professional growth, particularly among African American students. The initiative sets the following goals: at least 60% of participants are African American, with 75% successfully completing their programs within an accelerated timeframe. More than 75% of students are expected to finish life-skills training, such as the STU 103: Workplace Ethics and Job Readiness course. The program aims for 60% of graduates to secure employment in their field at wages at least 30% above the regional living wage or to continue their education.

Cierra Morris, Workforce Equity Initiative Director, described how the WEI program addresses barriers such as financial support, transportation, and provides weekly check-ins for student progress. “Any student coming to our program pays nothing out of pocket. Once they come, their tuition is fully covered, or their books and supplies are covered. They don’t have to worry about anything other than going to class and being successful.”

This year, 129 graduates of the WEI program have pursued a variety of high-demand fields, including:

  • Automotive Certificate
  • CNC Operation
  • Dental Assistant
  • Mechatronics
  • Nursing Aide Certificate (CNA)
  • Truck Driver Training
  • Welding

These programs are designed to be completed in a short-term, intensive format, equipping students with the skills needed to quickly enter the workforce.

Rock Valley College's WEI goes beyond traditional education by providing full tuition coverage, stipends, and wrap-around support services. Students benefit from life and career coaching, financial support for transportation, and child care assistance, ensuring they can focus on their studies and career preparation without undue financial stress.

The life coaches support system through WEI helped automotive student Roary Price refocus and build his business.

“My life coaches were able to direct me to resources that I didn’t even know about. Like a career clothing closet at RVC. I was able to get clothing and shoes for work. Being able to talk with my life coaches every step of the way was truly helpful.”

The graduation ceremony was a testament to the hard work and perseverance of the students, as well as the support provided by the WEI program. Graduates expressed gratitude for the opportunities and assistance they received, which have paved the way for their success.

L’Nea Lancaster shared her gratitude for the CNA program support and inspiring her daughter to follow in her footsteps. “I’m currently working at a hospital as a CNA and I love it. My overall experience has been great. My 17-year-old daughter who has graduated early will also be attending the welding program next spring.”

Tekkahmah Curry, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Specialist was recognized with the first Workforce Equity Initiative Humanitarian Award celebrating an individual who has shown an unwavering commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, profoundly impacting student success.

Cierra Morris shared the spirit behind her nomination. “Her ability to meet students where they are and surround them with a village of tough love and hope is remarkable. Her intelligence and attention to detail allude to her uniquely valued perspectives. Ms. Tekk Curry has had a tremendous impact on this program and our entire institution as a whole. She spends so much time valuing and highlighting others, but now we're going to use this moment to highlight her.”

Rock Valley College remains dedicated to its mission of promoting equity and opportunity through education. The WEI program exemplifies this commitment, and the college looks forward to continuing to support students in achieving their career goals.