Those in education talk a lot about barriers and finding ways around them to improve life circumstances through education. North Idaho College’s Molly Kreyssler and Judith George hear all about barriers—lack of financial resources, family obligations, health issues and even legal problems—but they only talk about removing them.
Through the Idaho Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST), Kreyssler and George try to help individuals who have never earned a high school diploma complete their GEDs and college training programs simultaneously. The program’s coordinators work as counselors, financial aid technicians and advisers to help individuals with whatever they need to be successful.
“We even attend classes with students if necessary, to give them the support they need,” Kreyssler said. “Anything to ensure their success!”
I-BEST is a program funded by a two-year, $521,000 grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. Those who have never completed high school undergo GED preparation and testing through the NIC Adult Basic Education Center to earn a GED in one semester, while working toward a technical certificate in one of four career programs through North Idaho College.
For Janelle Poulsen, a 20-year-old Coeur d’Alene resident, not having a diploma was keeping her from her dream of becoming a labor and delivery room nurse. But after leaping barricade after barricade, Poulsen just got tired of trying. She first left high school during her junior year, when her parents’ breakup forced her to support herself both financially and emotionally.
“When I lost my transportation, I gave up,” Poulsen said. “I just quit going. I never told anyone about it until reports started coming in the mail.”
At 17, Poulsen got married and although she attempted to finish school through the Bridge Academy, the 3.5-mile walk to school became more than she could bear and she quit again. After an abusive marriage that led to a divorce and her moving back home, Poulsen said she eventually found the love of her life who encouraged her to not give up. She tried again to finish high school online, but failed to complete for the third time.
When she was about to give up again, she found Kreyssler and George and their message rang loud and clear: “We will help you.”
“I was 26 weeks pregnant and wanting to do something with my life,” Poulsen said. “When I told the ladies about my situation and asked about financial help, they insisted that I shouldn’t even think about the money and just worry about getting my paperwork done. It all happened so fast!”
Through the I-BEST program, Poulsen was enrolled in GED preparation classes within a week and she earned her GED in a month. After 10 weeks, she completed a certified nursing assistant (CNA) certificate and two weeks later, gave birth to her son Rowen.
Poulsen is enrolled as a full-time student this semester at NIC, completing her prerequisites in hopes of being admitted into the registered nursing program.
“Ability was never an issue with Janelle,” George said. “Her commitment made all the difference. But her story is like so many others and we want everyone to realize, it’s never too late.”
An information night/open house for the I-BEST program is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31 in the Hedlund Building Room 233 on NIC’s campus. Staff and instructors will provide an overview of the I-BEST program as well as each of the four career programs: certified nursing assistant, machining, office specialist and welding. Tours of the classrooms will also be available as well as individualized initial advice. The event is free and open to anyone interested.
Information: Kreyssler at (208) 665-5060 or email@example.com or George at (208) 769-3313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Pictured top) Janelle Poulsen tried and failed to complete high school three times before finding the Idaho Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program at North Idaho College, which helped her earn a GED and receive training as a certified nursing assistant at the same time. (Pictured above) North Idaho College Idaho Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) Adviser/Data Analyst Judith George (left) counsels Chealsie Roberts and Victor Barbierri (seated) along with NIC I-BEST Coordinator Molly Kreyssler (standing right) at NIC.