The EleVAte SNAP Employment and Training Pilot Program is a three-year grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service awarded to ten states nationwide. The largest award went to the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS), with the VCCS as the primary official sub-recipient.
The pilot program was created to serve SNAP recipients with a focus on 18-to-59 year old Able Bodied Adults without Dependents, known as ABAWDs, and Work Registrants. The agencies partnering on this pilot will deliver training and employment services to approximately 2,693 SNAP E&T participants over the life of the pilot.
Statewide, seven community colleges have elected to take part in this project: TCC, TNCC, PVCC, SVCC, DCC, PHCC, and VHCC. There are 25 participating DSS offices within the service regions of the seven colleges .
The pilot was written to encompass several successful programs already being offered within the VCCS. These include the Plugged In Virginia program, the Job Skills Training Program, and the adult career coach model, to name a few. In addition to vocational training and industry-recognized credentials, participants will receive adult basic education and or GED prep, digital literacy, a Career Readiness Certificate, workplace readiness and soft skills training, and moral reconation therapy training.
Danville Community College is one of the participating colleges in the pilot and has hit the ground running. Attendance at the SNAP E&T pilot orientations has been outstanding and participants are flooding in to hear more about the exciting opportunity. One such person is Denysha Smith. Smith grew up in New Jersey and moved to Virginia after her fiancé secured employment here. She is a devoted mother to her five-year old son and is passionate about working with people. So what’s holding her back? Training! Smith came very close to completing a pharmacy technician program while in New Jersey and has realized that she needs training to get ahead. With student loans, Smith had no idea how she would be able to go back to school. But, she says, “this program came out of nowhere!” When a DSS worker (Threllis Hall of Danville’s DSS) chatted her up in the elevator, Smith says she was sold. “I was tired of living off the system and tired of being asked questions about how I provide for my son. I don’t want to have to choose between putting shoes on my son’s feet or food on the table. Ms. Hall said I didn’t have to live like this the rest of my life.”
Smith is now working with an adults career coach at Danville Community College, planning out her career, and carving a pathway to independence. Smith is receiving digital literacy, soft skills, workplace readiness training, and is on her way to earning a Career Readiness Certificate. Occupational training will come next. When asked what she wants to get out of this program, Smith replied, “I want to be able to support my family, get out of debt and live comfortably.”
With Ms. Hall at DSS, and her new support team at DCC, we have high hopes that Smith will achieve her dreams through the EleVAte SNAP E&T pilot program!
About the author: Angela Lawhorne is the EleVAte SNAP E&T Project Director at the Virginia Community College System
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