Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

HIGHER EDUCATION IN W.VA. ; Program Helps TANF Recipients with School; Service Assists Students with Everything from Academics to Child Care to Finances

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

HIGHER EDUCATION IN W.VA. ; Program Helps TANF Recipients with School; Service Assists Students with Everything from Academics to Child Care to Finances

Article excerpt

Cassandra Vance has never been the best at math, but she manages nowadays.

She has tried to go back to school to get a degree before. Each time was the same - her car didn't work and she didn't have a ride, or she didn't have the money to pay for classes nor someone to watch her son, Jackson. In those days, math was the least of her worries. This time is different. This time she has Miss Hattie.

"She has been extra helpful for me, Vance, 41, said. "I need my ACT scores for my West Virginia State University application - Miss Hattie made sure I knew when the deadlines were and how much it's going to cost. She even made arrangements to get it paid for.

Vance is a student at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College. Her success with her current attempt at a degree is due in part to a new program that encourages recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to go back to one of the state's public community and technical colleges.

Instead of having to figure out how to put themselves through school all alone, Vance and other TANF recipients are partnered with a student services specialist to help guide them through the process. These specialists help them arrange transportation, child care and work-study benefits. Miss Hattie will even teach them how to work a calculator, if that's what they need.

The program is a partnership between the state Department of Health and Human Resources and the Community and Technical College System. The DHHR funds a special position at each community college solely to help TANF recipients fill in any gaps they might have.

In Vance's case, she has Hattie Evans, known to some of her students as Miss Hattie. Evans was the specialist to oversee the launch of the program when it launched last year at Southern Community and Technical College. This year it's expanding to every public community college across the state.

"When they first come in, they don't really understand all of the services I can help them with, Evans said. "When they first come in, I find their self-esteem a little low. They don't know the college atmosphere, and I try to work on their self-esteem and let them know I'm available anytime - on the evenings and the weekends, if they need it. …

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