At-risk Austin students now able to pursue nursing careers

At risk youth get training to be nurses (KXAN photo)
At risk youth get training to be nurses (KXAN photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – From homeless to graduate, 16-year-old Sebastian Alvarez is close to becoming a certified nursing assistant.

Alvarez’s life hasn’t been easy. His father isn’t in his life. He’s spent his young life supporting his mother.

Today, though, he serves as the perfect example of the success stories you’ll discover at Austin Can Academy, a public charter school where the city’s at-risk youth turn their lives around.

“I might be the first one to be going to college,” Alvarez said.

He and eight other classmates are going through the school’s first Certified Nursing Assistant program where they learn the skills necessary to obtain immediate employment at doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinics, nursing and any other institution that hires nursing assistants.

“Without being here in this school I wouldn’t have had this opportunity,” said 16-year-old Griselda Esquiveo. “I probably would’ve just been at home working a job I didn’t like or just forcing myself to work where I knew I wasn’t happy.”

This summer is the first Austin Can Academy has offered the CNA program. The class is paid for by Skill Point Alliance.

These students look like every other high schooler you’d meet in the city, but they’re not. They’ve gone through things most of us haven’t. Some have given birth to kids, others have had to get jobs at a young age. Many come from broken homes or haven’t been able to stay out of trouble.

Esquiveo says she’s learned to take control of her future. “I can’t just live through life hoping something’s going to come to me – I have to go get it,” she said.

Teacher Kippling Spencer said the emotions are overwhelming watching these kids graduate and move on to the next chapters of their lives.

“We help them become who they are because we love them, and that’s the reason we’re in the field – that’s the reason we’re all here,” she said.

CNA program students will take a state certification test next month and then will be immediately qualified to work in the field.

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