Tell us about yourself.
My name is Mary Jo Washko and I am the Director of the Middle College and Great Expectations programs at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College where I have worked since 2003. Prior to Reynolds I worked in grant management, education and counseling.
What is the focus of your work?
The Middle College and Great Expectations programs provide college transition services for young adults ages 18 to 24. The Middle College is a GED to college/workforce transition program and the Great Expectations program provides college transition and support services for young adults affiliated with the foster care system.
ABOVE: an overview video of the Middle College program from their recognition as a “Richmond History Maker” in 2013
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The sense of pride and accomplishment I see on the faces of the students when they discuss their success in a class or the completion of their GED. That moment when they realize that their past does not have to determine their future or the future of their children. It is very rewarding to be in an environment where individuals can achieve success while gaining an appreciation for their own self-worth.
What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?
The Middle College and Great Expectations programs provide these services at no cost to the students through a mix of college and grant funding. The Richmond foundations and businesses have been very supportive but sustainable funding is always an area of concern. We have been fortunate to have the support of the college’s Development Office to help us pursue external grant funding.
What’s coming next for your organization that really excites you?
The Middle College has partnered with Region 15 Adult and Continuing Education to pilot our first PluggedInVA integrated education and training program. The GED to Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) program contextualizes the GED curriculum with components of the skills required to become a CNA and combines this with the training for the industry recognized credential. This collaboration expands the services offered by each of our programs, allowing us to serve more students who need their GED and workforce training. We have also partnered with the Resource Workforce Centers to provide additional supportive services for the students and develop additional PluggedInVA programs.
How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?
ConnectVA is wonderful resource! We use the events calendar, we maintain a profile for others seeking similar services, we refer students to the employment resources, and we actively make use of the Basic Needs Directory. Non-profit programs often have limited resources but ConnectVA provides a single location to identify and access service providers…it’s a beautiful thing!
Anything else you would like to share?
We are very grateful to the foundations and businesses who have supported our programs, lives have been changed because of your support. We are excited about our new partnerships and we anticipate that with the PluggedInVA model we will become a recognized source for employers looking for qualified and credentialed employees.