Client Testimonials

We are always working to support the successes of local job seekers and employers. Read what some of our clients have to say about Western Illinois Works and our services.

Partner Testimonial – Lisbeth Lefler, JWCC

Introduction

In my role, I assist students entering the Adult Education GED and ESL programs and provide career services as students work their way through the programs.

If students are unsure of what they want to do next, I work with them to narrow down what might be a good career fit based on their skills and interests.

Whenever possible, I connect students to our partners who might be able to provide funding for schooling or work experience. I also help connect students with JWCC, or the school of their choice, for additional education or training. Other students choose to go directly into the workforce, in which case I can assist them with their job search and application process, or work in partnership with WIW to find openings in their field of interest that could turn into a career.

“What makes me proud to represent JWCC and WIW is the impact these opportunities have on the students’ lives.”

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Our WIW Experience

JWCC worked more loosely with WIW before the 2014 WIOA legislation established adult education as a core partner. The availability of funding through the WIOA Out-of-School Youth Grant led JWCC to partner with WIW. This partnership provides us more resources and practical ways to provide workforce readiness services more directly to each student.

I am proud to represent JWCC and WIW due to the impact these opportunities have on the students’ lives. Many of our students have had a lot of challenges and sometimes don’t believe they can achieve their goals and live above their previous struggles.

I believe WIW plays an important role in providing a bridge for individuals who might otherwise just settle for poverty and a life of unfulfilled dreams. In addition, WIW also serves to empower and provide skills that would otherwise be missing from our workforce and the economy of our communities.

As we often see, wasted skills and discouraged individuals affect future generations, so by helping individuals gain skills and elevating them above their struggles, we change the trajectory of their children and grandchildren as well.

As a WIW partner, JWCC Adult Education serves as a steppingstone for individuals to position themselves ready to be catapulted forward – often with the help of the WIW assistance and programs. On a personal level, I love to see people find their purpose and achieve beyond their dreams.

In my experience, WIW serves as a bridge-builder for broken dreams for individuals and as an important partner to local and regional employers. Not only do the individuals benefit from the programs – their success may even inspire their network and families to pursue their own dreams in becoming everything they can, and that we as a society need them to be.

The most challenging aspect as a partner of WIW is to help people understand the value of the opportunities set before them. It’s truly within their power to change their lives.

On the flip side, it is very rewarding to see our students flourish doing things and going places they never thought they could. A changed life is the greatest reward for all of us.

We have had several students who qualified for WIW programs including some who just finished their first college course through an ICAPS logistics class. They all agree it was a great introduction to college level education. They also agree the class will help them get a good-paying job.

A couple of students stated the logistics class is directly related to their chosen career path. Another student just finished her CNA class, while other students have gained important skills through the Paid Work Experience program.

If another agency or an employer is curious about becoming a WIW partner, I would want them to know that these workforce programs create one of the best pipelines for undiscovered and previously untrained talent and skills – resources that are so vital to our society becoming the best it can be.

Looking forward, the opportunities ahead for the partnership of JWCC and WIW include expanding the ICAPS programs to serve more students and adding all career fields. With these partnerships, we can provide much-needed credentialing leading to self-sustaining wages.

I’m excited to see the programs grow and students leap into the future with their dreams and skills coming together.

“On a personal level, I love to see people find their purpose and achieve beyond their dreams.”

JWCC Exterior Fountain

Name: Lisbeth Lefler
Title: Adult Education Transition Coordinator
Partner: JWCC
# of Years as Partner: 8

Staff Testimonial – Crystle Adams

Western Illinois Works (WIW) Beginnings

I was working at a newspaper, a valuable experience, but I was not really loving the corporate feel. I had worked at a nonprofit right out of college and liked that atmosphere better, and I wanted to help people.

What Makes Crystle Proud to Represent WIW

I feel there is tremendous value in helping others find the educational and career paths that will be a good fit for them, provide for their families, and put them into positions to be contributing to the common good.

The Purpose of WIW in Crystle’s Community

We help connect people to resources that they may not know are available. We can help alleviate some of the struggles individuals in our community face, allowing them to become happier, more productive citizens.

Crystle’s Purpose at WIW

My purpose is to be a staff resource to help staff to do their jobs more effectively, thereby serving our clients better. I started as an educational and career counselor and job developer and spent about 15 years directly working with participants, helping them decide on training choices. Now, I use my expertise to help staff work more effectively.

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WIW Impact

Over the years, we have helped hundreds of participants find their best fit in training and job options. These people have gone on to raise families, become business and industry leaders, and participate in decision making in their communities. That has tremendous value to all of us in the region.

The Most Challenging Aspect of Crystle’s Role at WIW

The most challenging thing for me is staying on top of the numerous federal and state guidelines and managing work time to fit everything in.

Why Crystle Works at WIW

I like to help others explore and find their best selves, so they can be a positive influence on their families and community. There is tremendous satisfaction in seeing someone get excited about their achievements and path in life.

The Most Rewarding Aspect of Crystle’s Role at WIW

“The most rewarding thing about my job is knowing that we are making a positive impact in our communities.”

Crystle Adams

Name: Crystle Adams
Title: Program Coordinator / Interim Program Manager
Location Served: 9 Counties
# of Years at WIW: 23

Ebony’s Career Journey – Finding a Calling in Healthcare

Ebony turned to Western Illinois Works to enroll in the WIOA Youth Program because of the struggles she faced as a single mother, taking care of her father, and with no reliable transportation.

Taking the First Step

She knew she wanted to work in the medical field but wasn’t sure in what capacity. She didn’t have an extensive employment history but knew she needed to find something to support herself and her daughter.

A work experience position was created for Ebony at the City of Macomb Community Development Office. Job duties included sorting and scanning their backlog of forms and paperwork.

Excelling in Education

Ebony started classes in the Medical Assistant program at Spoon River College in Macomb. She earned very good grades and is currently studying for her state certification for Medical Assistant.

At school and at Ebony’s work experience site, she flourished, learning new skills, and made new connections in the community.

Besides Occupational Skills Training and Work-Based Learning, Ebony benefited from the WIOA internship program, which she completed successfully at McDonough District Hospital. She received assistance with transportation and resume preparation.

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Self-Sufficiency

Ebony was hired full-time by Pella Corporation in Macomb. She is still seeking a job opportunity within the medical field. Her case manager at the McDonough County Office in Macomb was essential in helping Ebony with these services during the past few years.

As in so many cases, when the odds are stacked against someone, they must reach down and find the grit and determination to keep on going, and that is just what Ebony did during her time in the WIOA program.

Finding Success

Ebony was especially persistent when she was juggling school, a job, a child, and taking care of relatives who were ill. It is a true testament to her steadfastness.

Ebony found the confidence she didn’t even know she possessed.

Ebony

“I found the confidence I didn’t know I possessed.”
— Ebony

Mawule’s Career Journey – Finding a Calling in Healthcare

It was a good day when one of Mawule’s fellow students told her about WIOA and referred her to Western Illinois Works. Mawule had recently started an associate degree in Nursing (R.N.) program at Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg.

Early Struggles

A single mom with three children, working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CAN) on the weekends while in school, Mawule was having a difficult time making ends meet.

The financial stress of worrying about paying her bills was impacting her ability to do her best in school.

Focusing on Education

Since Mawule received SNAP benefits, she was eligible to enroll in WIOA starting the following semester. She credits WIOA assistance with the jump in her fall semester GPA of 2.36 to her spring semester GPA of 3.20. She was able to concentrate on her studies without the constant worry of not having enough money.

Mawule moved to the United States from Togo, West Africa. She has no family in this country but said that a “kind neighbor” sometimes helped her with the children. Her native language is French. She speaks English perfectly but found reading and writing English to be more of a challenge.

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Added Pressure

It is in no way an exaggeration to say that the ADN program is extremely demanding. The language barrier made Mawule’s dedication and accomplishments even more impressive.  Sadly, Mawule also dealt with the passing of her beloved mother in Togo during this time. It was even more difficult because she couldn’t be there.

Finding Success

Mawule passed her NCLEX Board Exam and received her Professional Registered Nurse license. She was immediately promoted to R.N. at the nursing home where she worked.

Mawule is very grateful for the boost WIOA provided to help her accomplish her dream.

Mawule

“I credit WIOA assistance as being instrumental in allowing me to focus on my studies and to improve my GPA from 2.36 to 3.20 between the fall and spring semesters.”
— Mawule

Sarah’s Career Journey – From Struggle to Success

Sarah, of Pittsfield, Illinois, is a recent Individual Achievement Award recipient from WIOA (Western Innovation and Opportunity Act). Sarah epitomizes what WIOA clients are able to achieve.

Struggling to Support Her Family

She first applied for assistance as a single mom of three girls, as a Certified Nursing Assistant. Although she was working full-time, she still qualified for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), struggled financially, and lived in a tiny, cramped two-bedroom trailer.

Sarah wanted to be a nurse but decided to wait until her children were just a little older, as she did not want to miss their early development.

She said they were, “Just living, not living life, but surviving life day-by-day.”

Gaining Confidence

Sarah applied for the WIOA grant to obtain her Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) license. She also applied for SNAP Supportive Services while she was in the nursing program.

She scored high with healthcare services on her WorkNet Career Cluster assessment and said that her inspiration to be a nurse came from her mother, who is also a nurse.

Then Sarah scored well on the nursing entrance exam, which gave her the confidence she needed. 

Sarah’s research determined that the nearest nursing school for her was 72 miles round-trip and that without transportation reimbursement, she would be unable to complete her training. Later, her clinicals would be even further at 117 miles round trip.

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Surviving and Thriving

Through the WIOA program, Sarah received tuition assistance, books, fees, scrubs and shoes, mileage reimbursement for training, and monthly gas cards from SNAP to cover getting to work.

Sarah’s employer worked with her, adjusting her schedule to part-time on weekends, so she could continue her training, and offered her a position as an LPN when she was licensed.

Sarah said that she was able to survive and thrive because she was not working full-time and trying to excel at a rigorous course of study. 

Since then, Sarah has graduated and has completed her final licensure test.

When Sarah started in the program, she was receiving $15 per hour and barely covering her monthly expenses. As an LPN, Sarah makes $27 an hour at her current employer.

Sarah has almost doubled her income, moved into a home that fits her family, and because of Western Illinois Works, has a sustaining career, all within a year of her original application.

Sarah said, “I did want to add a huge thank you to the WIOA program. I couldn’t have done this without the support.”

“Sarah was determined to make a better life for herself and her children. She knew she was capable of more, and she was right.”

Sarah of Pittsfield, IL

“Your program allowed me to not only complete the program, but absolutely thrive. With your help, and the support from WIOA, I graduated valedictorian.”
— Sarah, Pittsfield, IL

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