LaJada Seals of Davenport had struggled with a variety of minimum-wage jobs over her working years.

She knew there were better opportunities. But she needed more training.

So, she enrolled in classes at Scott Community College to become a certified nurses assistant, or CNA. Now, she is working full time as a CNA.

But she didn’t do it alone. Help came from the Hubbell-Waterman Foundation, which has funded a partnership that trains unemployed and underemployed workers to develop skills leading to better jobs. The partnership includes United Way of the Quad-Cities Area, Eastern Iowa Community College District and Black Hawk College.

The colleges are developing specific course work to provide courses to those who need assistance most. The foundation gave Black Hawk and Eastern Iowa $125,000 each for the program.

“It allowed me to pay for my own bills and stay on budget,” Seals said. “They paid for everything I needed, as long as they knew I was serious.”

Dana Waterman, managing partner of the Davenport law firm of Lane & Waterman, is a co-trustee of the foundation. It was established by his late uncle and aunt, Larned and Mary Hubbell Waterman, to support charitable organizations in the Quad-Cities.

The foundation has given to charitable organizations for years.

Last December, Waterman said, the foundation decided it wanted to extend support to people who needed to be reskilled or retrained.

“Job retraining was needed for newly unemployed people to enhance their skills to re-enter the job market,” he said. “There was a gap between traditional loan sources and getting short-term job skills. We thought we might be able to fill in with this grant. It is a pilot project.”

Margaret Roberts, chief operating officer for United Way, said the foundation approached the organization about the idea. United Way, in turn, contacted the two community colleges. “We are thankful to be a partner and helping Hubbell-Waterman with this.”

Glenda Nicke, dean of adult and continuing education at Black Hawk College, Moline, said the project has been a success. She said the funds usually pay for classes, books and any other materials needed.

“We have worked with 26 students so far,” she said. “Many have been laid off or had hours reduced. We are looking at people who have a work history and have a desire to be employed.”

Deb Goodall, associate director of continuing education at Scott, said the college was able to begin assisting students in March. Currently, 60 people have qualified for funding.

“The intent of the program is to help unemployed or underemployed gain a skill quickly and earn a respectable wage,” she said. “They may be working fast food or working part-time and really they are  looking for a full-time career.”

Michelle Escamilla, 28, of Silvis, will begin classes Oct. 17 to become a CNA after recently earning her GED.

“I was a waitress, a banquet supervisor, in the food service industry. I worked at a gas station and now I am a temp at a plastics factory,” the single mother of two said. “On my first day of GED class, the school talked with me and told me about this program. Ever since they gave me details, it was the greatest thing I ever heard.

“They are paying for my class and books. And they took me to the store to buy my scrubs and a watch. I already had shoes. They are making sure I have everything to prepare me for the class. This is something I wanted to do for years. I always said ‘no way am I ever going to be able to afford the class.’ But after talking to them, it brightened up my day.”

Meanwhile, Seals is grateful to have her job at the Kahl Home for the Aged and Infirm in Davenport and for what the program did for her.

“I used to work at Casey’s gas station, and a couple of minimum-wage jobs,” said Seals, 35, a single mother with a 17-year-old son. “I had no stability at all. 

“At Scott Community College, they not only worked with me, they also were interested in my home life. They were wonderful. They were not just trying to help with the CNA certification. They cared about my whole life.”

“We are very pleased that we can provide this critical service to those newly unemployed or underemployed,” Waterman said. “In these economic times, finding a job can be very challenging. By providing career reskilling in such a short period of time, people can quickly get back into the work force and start providing for their families again.”

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