SkillUP training can ‘break those walls down,’ lead to a good job

Amy Mattingly speaks to new SkillUP participants at a recent orientation at MCC’s Health Science Institute. (Photos by Chris Meggs/MCC)

Amy Mattingly’s plans are simple. Keep fighting and keep moving forward.

She says it was the SkillUP program offered through Metropolitan Community College that helped give her momentum.

Mattingly, 36, is an overcomer. She says she has survived physical and sexual abuse. She lost both of her parents and is raising three children on her own. She was nearing the end of her rope and knew something had to change.

“Find me anything,” she told a social worker. “I can’t stay where I’m at. I don’t know what to do. Somebody needs to help me. I need to fight.”

And the social worker put her in touch with the SkillUP program.

SkillUP educates and trains recipients of SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), sometimes referred to as food stamps. The goal of the free SkillUP program is to teach participants the skills to find a long-term job that pays good wages.

All of Missouri’s 13 community and technical colleges are part of the program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture funds a grant for SkillUP and the Missouri Department of Social Services oversees it.

Mattingly hopes to inspire others to make life-changing choices.

At MCC, the noncredit workforce program trains future certified nurse assistants, pharmacy technicians, phlebotomy technicians and commercial truck drivers, among other fields. Coursework takes a year or less.

Mattingly became a certified nurse assistant in March. She says it was a hard road that brought her to SkillUP, but she didn’t want to give up on herself.

“No matter what you go through, good or bad . . . break those walls down. Have fun living your life no matter how hard it gets,” she says.

Mattingly says she depended on SkillUP’s navigators at MCC.

Navigators Valencia Broadus, Sandy Snook and Eunice Terry are both cheerleaders and guides. They direct and help students through the program. They provide a listening ear and assist the students in finding the help and support they need while they are in class. They also keep in touch, making sure participants find work after graduation.

“The navigator role is to do whatever they need to do to get students to the right place,” says Jeanne Schmidt, MCC continuing education workforce coordinator. She says they provide the human touch students need to be successful in the program.

SkillUP “provides them hope and a future where they may have thought they didn’t have one,” Schmidt says.

Mattingly now spreads that message of hope to others entering the SkillUP program. She shares her story during orientation. “It’s never too late,” she says. “If I can do it, they can do it.”

During a recent orientation, Mattingly made a point to address each participant in the room, giving them a positive message filled with hope.

“If you need help, ask for help,” she told them. “And don’t stop until you find the right people.”

Schmidt describes Mattingly as “super enthusiastic” and “amazing”: “She took advantage of the opportunity.”

Schmidt is working to help others find the success Mattingly found. She says the goal is to have 70 people complete the SkillUP program every year.

The program is funded through September, but Schmidt expects more money to be added to keep it running through summer and fall of 2020.

SNAP recipients interested in receiving SkillUP training can apply any time. Call 816.604.1000. “Some people make a really quick life change,” Schmidt says.

As far as her own life changes, Mattingly says she’s not through. She plans to become a medical technician. She wants to be an inspiration for her children and others. No matter what, she says, “I’ll keep going.”

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