“ Don’t Lose Hope. Be Patient. You Can Get Far if You Don’t Give Up.”August 22, 2018
The 1199SEIU Training and Upgrading Funds celebrated the accomplishments of graduates with June events in New York City and Massachusetts. The annual celebrations recognize members who complete Training and Upgrading Fund (TUF) programs during the academic year.
In Manhattan on June 28, New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie was the keynote speaker at a celebration attended by 650 graduates from throughout New York State, Maryland and New Jersey. Attendees were among the more than 1,000 members who in 2018 completed TUF programs that ranged from professional certification and training to Associate’s, Bachelor’s and advanced degrees in nursing and counseling.
Heastie, a staunch 1199SEIU ally, lauded workers’ perseverance in the pursuit of education; a special brand of determination is needed for adult students who often have a host of responsibilities in addition to academic commitments.
Jacqueline Stanley, a pharmacy technician at Rite Aid #1302 in Newburgh, NY, graduated in May from the RN Program at Orange County Community College and passed her RN licensing exam in July.
“It was extraordinary to see my dreams come to life. Sometimes, it felt like an out-of-body experience,” she says.
Guadalupe Diaz, a home health aide (HHA) with Staten Island’s Stella Orton Agency, in May completed the Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) Program at Curtis High School. Diaz says her experience as a home health aide and caring for a niece with muscular dystrophy nudged her to advance her career in health care. “I saw so many patients who needed kind and compassionate care, the kind of care I could provide as an LPN,” she says. On June 22, Massachusetts members celebrated their educational milestones with a recognition ceremony at the Union’s Quincy headquarters. Bay State 1199ers have been participating in the 1199SEIU TUF for 11 years, and over that time more than 500 working women and men attained their educational goals in the field of health and human services with post-secondary certificate or degree programs.
The event’s keynote speaker was Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, who praised grads for their contributions to the health and wellness of Massachusetts residents. Personal Care Attendant Yusta Ntakirutimana said TUF classes have helped her build a new life after escaping war-torn Burundi with her family.
“Once our family got settled I started [as a PCA] for my older sister who has cerebral palsy. I clean, cook, change her diaper, help her with exercises give her massages and medication,” she said. “One day an organizer from the Union knocked on my door and told me about all the classes I could take with the union. I told him I had never taken the train and would be too afraid, but I really wanted to go. He took two buses and a train with me to Dorchester to show me how to do it.”
Ntakirutimana says the experience gave her the confidence to take more classes and keep learning about her new home country.
“My advice is to trust yourself,” she says. “Don’t lose hope. Be patient. You can get far if you don’t give up.”