News & Event
Written by Crossroads Staff Member Betty Johnson-Simons
Recently I visited students in Crossroads’ new Non-Farm Animal Caretaker Training Program. They were celebrating the successful completion of the classroom component of the first training and looking forward to the next step—internships at seven animal shelter programs across the state. Every student was full of praise for the program and the instructor, Michelle Cantini, who brings years of animal care experience, knowledge of the field and a lot of enthusiasm to the program.
The training prepares students for careers working with companion animals in shelters, veterinary clinics, pet supply store, kenneling or pet day care programs. Students achieve certification in animal first aid and CPR, learn basic animal care techniques involved in grooming, routine health care, feeding, kennel management and obedience training. They participate in frequent field trips to animal shelters where they observe and learn from professional animal caretakers. After completing the class work, students advance to internships that include hands-on work experience at several animal shelters across the state.
There was no doubt that every student in the class was inspired by a love for animals and was determined to pursue a career that offers many opportunities for further education and advancement. Tony, one of the students, says he highly recommends the program for anyone who loves animals, and that applies to every student in the class. Red, another student, praised the instructor and said that she has motivated them to work hard and pursue their dreams of working in a field they love. Jodi, another student, said that she had never met a more patient teacher.
For these enthusiastic students, the Animal Caretaker Program is a dream come true. Most of these animal lovers are struggling with unemployment, homelessness and poverty, and over and over they said how grateful they are for the opportunity to train for work as animal caretakers. One student said, “We just want to thank Crossroads for offering this class, and we know that there are many more people here waiting for a chance to enroll.” Another student, Ron Dogg, says that he used to work with animals when he lived in Texas. “Now that I will have animal first aid and CPR certification, I know that I will be able to get a good job doing what I love most—helping animals.” Ron really wants to go back to Texas someday and feels confident that he will be successful there.
The day I visited the class, Dave Holden from the Providence Animal Shelter and Tammy Mello, a Warwick police officer, were there to talk to the students about ways they handle animal cruelty complaints. Dave and Tammy had brought along an adorable puppy from the Providence Shelter, and the students were showering the little guy with a lot of attention and affection. It was easy to see that these students love what they are doing and are eager to learn more.
This program helps Crossroads’ low-income and homeless students build on their experiences and talents and love for companion animals to forge a better future for themselves. The animal caretaker field has many opportunities for employment at all levels, and there are many certificate programs to help practitioners advance in their careers. Both the students and the companion animals they care for will benefit from this innovative program.
Growing up in foster care in Rhode Island, Timothy Walker says he always observed the loving, compassionate relationship between people and their pets, and wondered if he would ever be able to share such a bond with an animal. As a student in Crossroads’ Animal Caretaker Training course, not only did Timothy get to experience this bond for himself, he also gained valuable skills and knowledge to help him find a career caring for animals.
Timothy came to Crossroads when despite all his best efforts, he was faced with multiple personal and professional setbacks and was unable to make ends meet. “I knew nothing of Crossroads until I had an unfortunate situation,” he said. “It’s not easy to have to keep starting over.”
In order to help him start over one last, successful time, Crossroads was able to offer Timothy a room in our Housing Tower. When he learned about the Animal Caretaker Training program, he was anxious to enroll and begin learning new job skills in an area that interested him.
During his training, Timothy worked as an intern at the Exeter Animal Shelter, where he practiced what he learned at Crossroads, developed an even greater love for animals, and learned that they had something to offer him, too.
“It made me feel good to know that someone was looking forward to seeing me,” he said. “Whenever I left, I couldn’t wait to come back the next day. I got learning experience, and at the same time it gave me a boost to my self-esteem.”
By the end of his internship, Timothy knew the animals in the shelter by name, and how to work with each of their unique temperaments. On a regular basis, he cared for terrified kittens, an older dog with eye problems and hearing loss, and animals with incurable diseases.
“It was quite challenging,” he said. “I had to remember to never get to the point of being aggressive and always be patient.”
Now that Timothy’s internship is over and he has successfully completed Crossroads’ Animal Caretaker Training, he plans to continue volunteering at the Exeter Animal Shelter while he searches for a job in the animal care field.
He is still living at Crossroads, but with his training completed and his passion for animals kindled, Timothy is one large step closer to achieving his dream – having his own residence where he can entertain friends. He is also interested in writing an autobiography to share his experience.
“When I move on to bigger and better things, I want to leave behind that I appreciate what I was able to do here,” he said of his time at Crossroads. “I am determined to do something positive with my life.” We certainly think he is already having a positive impact on the community and those around him.
Crossroads is pleased to congratulate Timothy and the rest of the Animal Caretaker Training program students and graduates on their successes!
We are pleased and very grateful to announce that Crossroads Rhode Island has been granted a Governor's Workforce Board Innovation award. The award was given to 16 agencies that provide job training to help Rhode Islanders get back to work.
This grant will enable us to train 40 low-income or homeless adults to become certified nursing assistants (CNAs)!
Our CNA training program has graduated 107 classes of individuals. Our graduates are prepared to enter the workforce with the proper training and experience necessary to begin their careers.
We recently had a chance to catch up with Yakellin Garcia, a CNA graduate from our 81st class.
Yakellin graduated from the CNA program in the fall of 2011. She visited Crossroads recently as a Career Day recruiter on behalf of her employer, Cherry Hill Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Yakellin remembers her time as a CNA student at Crossroads as both challenging and encouraging.
"The class was a little challenging because there was a lot to memorize and take in...my teachers and instructors had so much faith in me, so I didn't give up," she said.
Yakellin has been a CNA at Cherry Hill for three years. She specializes in caring for long term patients, and is not only the lead CNA on her floor, but was also named CNA of the Year there. She also has an active role on Cherry Hill's Retention and Recruitment Committee.
Yakellin is passionate about her role, and encourages people thinking about pursuing a career as a CNA, as long as they are passionate about it as well.
"Don't just do it for the money, do it because you really care," she says. "A lot of patients will depend on you."
In the future, Yakellin plans to continue her education and pursue a career in Criminal Justice.
"No obstacles that I've faced stopped me from getting to where I wanted to be, and I'm not done yet," she said.
If you would like more information on the CNA Training program and other Education and Employment Services at Crossroads, visit our website.
As the newest instructor in our Employment and Education Services department, Dennis Owens has already seen the positive impact that education and job training has on people who are working to improve - or in some cases, rebuild - their lives.
His very first class of Janitorial Training students included some ambitious individuals who achieved tremendously positive outcomes. As a direct result of the Janitorial Training program, three students secured employment in the janitorial field, and one student went on to another training program.
“They came to me very motivated,” Dennis said of his students. “They come ready and willing to learn, and seem committed to changing their lives. They really invested in it. Everything I asked them to do, they did it.”
The Janitorial Training program is just one of the job-training classes offered at Crossroads. The class teaches students janitorial skills from the simple to the complex. By the end of the eight-week program, successful students receive four different certifications which make them qualified and desirable candidates for jobs in the janitorial field: OSHA 10 Safety Certification, Green Cleaning Certification, Blood-Born Pathogen Certification, and Mold Remediation Certification.
In addition to 12 hours a week of in-class instruction, Janitorial Training students are required to complete a 40 hour internship in the field, and about three hours of homework every week. They work with Dennis and other Crossroads staff members to learn how to conduct job searches specifically geared to the janitorial field.
Dennis is uniquely qualified for his position as Janitorial Training Program Instructor. With experience as a business owner in environmental services, he worked in the community at places like Johnson and Wales University and Roger Williams Medical Center conducting training in environmental services. Eventually, he decided to go back to school himself and earned his Master’s degree in Adult Education. Dennis came out of retirement to take on the position of Janitorial Training Program Instructor at Crossroads.
Dennis recently welcomed 15 new students into his classroom for his second class. He feels confident that his new students will value the class as much and work as hard as his first students. In the near future, he hopes to grow the program by developing more hands-on training and offering job-shadowing opportunities to his students.
June 2, 2016
Dear Crossroads Donors,
Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion in the media and in the state legislature about the merits and process of awarding Community Service grants to non-profit agencies that provide many of the human services programs in Rhode Island. Crossroads Rhode Island is the grateful recipient of one of these grants, which helps us sustain essential services focused on helping individuals and families secure stable homes. We receive $302,500 from the legislature, of which 100% is spent on direct services, including:
The Community Service grant helps us provide direct assistance to more than 1,500 people every year and makes it possible for those in the greatest need to get help when they need it most. The grant provides only a portion of the cost of operating these programs (less than 20%), but without this assistance, we would not be able to sustain the level of support we offer now. On any given night, we provide emergency shelter to an average of 184 individuals. In 2015, we housed 41 adults directly from living on the streets in unsafe situations into housing – bypassing the shelter system completely. Our focus is on permanent housing solutions—last year, 92% of the adults in our shelter program and 72% of families in shelter exited to permanent housing. We moved and/or maintained 693 households, representing 1,364 individuals, in stable housing.
Crossroads is proud of its strong fiscal infrastructure and transparency. We provide regular narrative and financial reports to the RI Department of Human Services, which manages our Community Service grant. The Community Service grant is a good investment of state funding, and Crossroads ensures that every dollar awarded to us has a positive impact on ending homelessness in our state.
We recently joined together with five other organizations to voice our support for the Community Service grant program. You can read our joint letter here.
Karen A. Santilli
President & CEO
The storage and organization retailer’s 25,000 square foot store filled with 10,000 products to organize every area of your life provided the perfect backdrop for a Private Preview Party on Thursday, May 15th. Among those in attendance were Anne Nolan, President & Chief Executive Officer, Crossroads Rhode Island, Karen Santilli, Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer, Crossroads Rhode Island, Peter Kilmartin, Rhode Island Attorney General, and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. Members of The Container Store’s Vice President team were also in attendance at the event.
Melissa Reiff, President & Chief Operating Officer for The Container Store, welcomed attendees and thanked Crossroads Rhode Island for all of their support and efforts in getting the store ready for its Grand Opening. Nolan followed Reiff’s opening remarks by welcoming The Container Store to the community.
“Partnering with Crossroads Rhode Island has been an incredible honor for our company,” said Reiff. “They are truly invested in the entire Rhode Island community. We couldn’t have found a better match – and it’s an organization that we know our local customers and employees are passionate about.”
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