BENNINGTON -- Melody Maher went back to school in 2010 to get her certificate in medical assisting and to open more career opportunities for herself.
When the Community College of Vermont began offering an Associate of Applied Science Program for medical assisting for the fall 2013 semester, she jumped at the opportunity.
"It was 10 years after I graduated high school. In the valley there are a lot of retail jobs, which are fun, but it's not a real career," Maher said. "So I said I would like to go into medical, and CCV has been great."
Maher is employed full-time as a receptionist at Advanced Eyecare, 322 Dewey St., as she works on finishing her degree this summer. The 31-year-old student has taken two classes a semester to get her certificate. She spent one more year at CCV to receive her degree once the degree program was offered.
The medical assisting degree program is one of three that CCV now offers, however is the most prominent program at the Bennington location. The other two new associate's degree programs include digital marketing and applied business practices. They were developed with support from the U.S. Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant.
In conjunction with the Employment and Training Administration, DOL gives out TAACCCT grants to drive innovation and the development of model training programs at the nation's community colleges and universities.
"We want our students and our graduates to have a lot of hands-on experience as a part of the community," said Nicole Stetson, Bennington CCV coordinator of academic services.
Vermont is one of the last states to require any certification for medical assisting. CCV's program developed out of a statewide need. Medical assistants function both in the clinical and administrative ends of a medical office: Stetson said that's something that the training needs to address. CCV students are participating in 20 administrative and clinical internships this summer throughout the Bennington medical community.
Each of the three associate's degree programs include two internship components. For Maher, the degree program gave her the opportunity for clinical experience at Deerfield Valley Health Center in addition to an administrative internship.
"The instructors are in the fields that they are teaching," Maher said. "It's not just a professor (lecturing a class): It's really hands-on and helpful in getting out into the job market, which I think is really hard to do in this day and age."
Maher worked full-time throughout her part-time attendance at CCV. She said the time it took her is no deterrent for her desire to go on for a bachelor's degree. "I was thinking when I first started at CCV, that I would get the certificate just to get my foot in the door at places. I think it was fun and I would like to keep going," she said.
The Bennington CCV doesn't only work to continue the education of working adults like Maher. CCV is working with the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce and the Bennington County Industrial Corporation to bring businesses and individuals into some free classes that the school will start offering in September.
"I think the TAACCCT Grant has allowed us to increase awareness in the community that education and training have to be ongoing," said another academic services coordinator at CCV, Jeanette Jenkins. "I think the more people engage in that sort of endeavor, the more open they are to reinventing themselves as the work world reinvents itself."
The free courses are being offered with money from the TAACCCT Grant, and include in-class or online courses open to public registration. The classes include professional financial literacy, principles of supervision and "working in a professional environment."
"CCV has opened so many doors for me," Maher said. "Everyone there really cares about you passing your classes. It genuinely feels like they are there for you at every step of the way."
CCV offers classes priced on a by-credit basis, rather than on a full-time or part-time tuition price tag. To learn about how to enroll, apply for financial aid or to enroll in the free fall courses, visit http://ccv.edu/.
Contact Tom Momberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg.