Demand for Certified Nursing Assistants Fuels Enrollment in Free HCDE Adult Education Program


Andrea Rodriguez put her family first for almost 20 years. One day a neighbor convinced her to attend a Harris County Department of Education GED class. From there, a teacher encouraged her to enter a free certified nursing assistant (CNA) program.

Nervous doesn’t even begin to describe the beginning days for Rodriguez, a ninth-grade dropout with Spanish as her first language.


“I wanted to quit, but then I was always telling my girls to never give up,” she said.  So I put everything into God’s hands and carried on.”


She passed one of the five GED tests and felt a bit more confident; then she aced another and another.

HCDE Adult Education Manager May O’Brien visited Rodriguez’s class as she was studying to pass the remaining two tests and told her about the CNA program.
“She said, there’s a difference if you want it or wish for it,” the mother of three girls said. “I knew I didn’t want to waste my time. I wanted it.”

Once she passed her high school equivalency exams, Rodriguez was able to join the CNA program, a free, six-week training program offered in collaboration between HCDE Adult Education, the Texas Workforce Commission and Pioneer Nursing School. Upon completion, students take the CNA certification test.

The hybrid program mixes CNA training with content-enriched adult education classes. Students switch classes every-other week. One week they learn patient care and safety procedures and eventually train in clinicals with patients with teacher Dele Jokodola. The next week students gain experience with vocabulary and cultural competencies from their HCDE adult Education teacher Lavenia Cole.

All the while, the adult students prepare to take the CNA certification test. Upon completion, salary benefits range from $12-$15 an hour, depending on the employer. Students may work in nursing homes, hospitals, rehab centers or home-care settings.
Student Estella Tchilendou is one of many students from Africa who are enrolled in a 20-student class. Her first language is French, and she is from Cameroon. She holds a master’s degree in finance and had a 14-year career in business before moving to the United States in 2015.

“In our English class, we practice language, and I am learning vocabulary for the health care industry while improving my listening and speaking skills,” she said. “I am learning how to take care of my patients and must learn bedside manner, which includes being friendly and confident.”

Adult Education teacher Cole says health care industry careers are in high demand as boomers get older, and the sky is the limit in terms of opportunity.
“You can build on your CNA,” she said. “There are other certifications you can add on like phlebotomy and CPR training.”

Cole works with students on reading comprehension strategies like finding the key words, as well as testing strategies. She has even devised an ethical bingo game to broach subjects such as religious and cultural differences in the workplace.
“She was so patient,” said Rodriguez about her teacher. “The one thing I know for sure now is that it’s never too late to learn.”

HCDE Adult Education is the largest, no-cost adult education program in Texas, with a variety of health care and construction career training options in Harris and Liberty counties. Students may also take English as a second language classes and high school equivalency degree classes simultaneously in a traditional classroom setting or online. For more information, go to http://www.hcde-texas.org/adult-education.

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