July 12, 2006
Following a successful first year in a new statewide program, HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College, is the recipient of a $361,430 Keystone Education Yields Success (KEYS) grant award. It is the highest amount awarded among the state's community colleges.

The KEYS program, part of the PA Welfare-to-Work initiative from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, provides funding to community colleges statewide for case management services for TANF students - Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, according to Sheila Ciotti, director of Career Services. Case management services may include assisting students with referral services, personal goal assessment and planning. Data has shown that TANF clients who earn a certificate or degree are better able to get jobs with family-sustaining wages, benefits, and opportunities for advancement.

"We received a significant increase over last year," said Ciotti, explaining that the amount received is based on the college's success with the program and the number of students participating. "We have about 100 students participating now, and we anticipate continued growth in the next year."

The program is beneficial for college students who may have barriers to success, such as transportation issues, limited income, being a single parent, and a lack of family or parental support. A program facilitator based at each of HACC's campuses serves as a liaison between the student and the program services.

"The facilitator initiates information sessions on topics such as academic success, personal finance/budgeting, child care and specialized tutoring," Ciotti said. "The goal is to have them graduate with either a certificate or associate degree. The facilitators make sure they are on the right track and that their goals are feasible."

The program also provides students with incentives throughout the year, such as gas cards, grocery cards and student celebrations, to motivate them to do well and stick with the program. Although the KEYS program has only been in place for one year, retention is strong and the majority of students have GPAs over 2.0, according to Ciotti.

"I really give credit to the facilitators who are working directly with the students, as well as some of the students who have benefited from the program and made it known to others [who could benefit]," she said. "They've formed their own social network and developed a type of support system among themselves."

For more information on the state KEYS program, contact Sheila Ciotti in the career services office at 717-780-3265.

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