STAFF AND FELLOW STUDENTS BAND TOGETHER TO HELP THOSE MOST IN NEED
“Whenever I think I can’t do something in life, I think of a few students we’ve had here,” says Fall River campus director Jennifer Pereira. “If they could find a way to get here every day and graduate despite their circumstances, then what am I so worried about? Look at what they’ve accomplished. It’s very inspirational.”
During her six years at the Salter School, first as an instructor at the New Bedford campus, and now as a campus director, Pereira has seen many students walk through the doors of the school with significant challenges.
“We had a student in New Bedford who started when she was homeless,” recalls Pereira. “She was living out of a car with her child. But she graduated and now she’s considered middle management where she works. She wanted to quit school many times, but she stuck it out.
“Right now we have another student who’s homeless,” she adds. “She lives in a shelter with her two kids. But she’s here every day. She gets her kids to daycare and she finds a way to get here. And she has no doubt that she’ll be successful.”
Support in many forms
While most students may not have the extreme challenges of trying to finish school without a permanent home, many still face significant struggles with financial issues, transportation, or child care.
However, when things get hard, Pereira and the Fall River campus staff are ready with a pep talk – as well as some concrete assistance.
“When people get down, I tell them a true story about a former student who graduated. Then I see them get that spark in their eye like ‘I can do this,’” she says. “But it’s not just an education. Sometimes someone will say ‘I don’t have gas money this week. What am I going to do?’ Then we’ll sit down and figure it out. We’ll help them find a carpool. And we also have a list of local resources that can help students. We have solid contacts in this area that can help students find their way to school, or find daycare, or find a way to get on assistance. So it’s not just about education for us.”
The campus also maintains a pantry to help students who may be struggling with food. Nancy Sypek, director of the health claims specialist training program at Fall River, keeps a shelf of non-perishables in her office that students may help themselves to. “It’s very discreet. They’re welcome to come in and fill up a bag. Sometimes someone just needs something for lunch. Or sometimes an instructor will notice that someone is a little ‘off’ and then find out that the person hasn’t eaten that day.
“The instructors usually replenish our supply but students help out too,” Sypek explains. “Instead of having a dollar dress down we’ll tell people to bring a can of food.”
Practical job knowledge without the fluff
“The way I look at it is these students don’t have the other opportunities that students would have if they went to college,” say Pereira. “So we give them the tools that they need to survive and we do it quickly. They get hands-on training that will help them succeed in their chosen career.
“Here, they only need their intensives – that’s why it’s called a career school. No one has to take electives, like gym or a pottery class,” she says with a laugh. “We focus on the job knowledge that students are going to need so they can master those skills, and then go out and be successful.”
Pereira claims that education is her passion, but she reiterates that working at Salter is about more than just school. “When you see someone who can hold their head up – when you see them change their life – that makes it all worth it,” she says.
Interested in learning more about Salter’s professional medical assistant, health claims specialist, massage therapist, or pharmacy technician training programs?
Request more information or schedule a tour at one of our campuses in Fall River, Tewksbury, or Malden.