Santa Maria is all about making connections that help families attain their educational, financial and health goals. That’s exactly what happened in 2017 when Brieana Byrnside decided she wanted to get her High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma. She was receiving services at Lighthouse Youth Services at the time and her caseworker referred her to Santa Maria Community Services (SMCS).
When Brieana first came to SMCS, she was eager to get her GED. Soon after enrolling, she found out that she was pregnant with her first child, Cyriana, and entered Santa Maria’s Every Child Succeeds (ECS) program. ECS prepares new parents and their children for healthy, successful lives. It is a collaborative, evidence-based home-visitation program that provides services for first-time, at-risk mothers from the time of pregnancy until the child’s third birthday and is designed to optimize child development and promote a variety of positive outcomes. With the help of ECS, Brieana was able to obtain housing, a car seat, Pack N Play and a stroller and she still receives assistance with diapers and wipes. She also loves attending events that give Cyriana the opportunity to socialize and help her develop a sense of self. ECS offered Brieana support to ensure an optimal start for Cyriana who participated in developmental activities like stacking blocks, peek-a-boo, hide and seek with toys and drawing with markers. “I don’t have much family,” Brieana said, “so it was great to have a case worker come to my home.”
Additionally, Brieana sought educational assistance from Santa Maria’s Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program (CCMEP). CCMEP provides coaching services for youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school. This program focuses on assisting youth with their education and employment goals. Youth Employment Coordinator, Emma Dewhurst, said that Brieana excelled in the classroom. She studied for her High School Equivalency test and after a few months of preparation, passed the test! Brieana then went on to get her State Tested Nursing Assistant/Patient Care Assistant (STNA/PCA) Certification through Great Oaks Career Campuses and began attending college classes at Cincinnati State. “Getting my GED made me able to do other programs like going to college,” Brieana said. “Having my case worker’s support was everything.”
Brieana then decided that a change of career was in order. As part of CCMEP, she was referred to the BLOC Teaching Kitchen. BLOC Teaching Kitchen partners with Santa Maria as well as Kroger’s “Zero Hunger Zero Waste” initiative. This 8-week training, mentoring and cooking program is designed for those who have dropped out of high school and desire to work in the culinary field. Brieana enjoyed the apprenticeship platform that equips students with the essential certifications and skills required to get a good quality, well-paying job in the culinary industry. After graduation she hoped to get a job in the culinary field where she feels there are more opportunities. She even received two offers!
Brieana utilized many of Santa Maria’s services in order to reach her goals and she advocates for the agency whenever she can. “I have referred many friends to Santa Maria,” Brieana said, “Santa Maria is not talked about enough! They offer so much help to people, especially 18-24-year-olds. They help with employment; they help with schooling; they help with the transportation aspect; they even help with uniforms! I wish that more people knew about Santa Maria’s services.”
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