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Noteworthy

On-Ramp Program Helps Student Pursue Goals

Posted on August 22, 2013

By Holly Walker

Brandi Byrd’s life took an unexpected turn in 2010. After working for 13 years as a certified pharmacy technician, she found herself unemployed when the company she worked for closed. Byrd weighed her options. She considered trying to find another job in her field, but the economic downturn left her few opportunities. She also knew that even if she got a job, there would be little-to-no room for career advancement. That’s when she began exploring education options.

Byrd knew she wanted a career that would allow her to help people, and she was interested in radiology, so looked into a program at a local hospital. The program required some prerequisite classes, so she turned to John Tyler Community College. She signed up for classes and began pursuing her new dream. Byrd said, at first, she only intended to take a few classes at Tyler, but with the encouragement of one of her instructors, she decided to alter her path and begin work on a two-year General Studies degree.

In her second semester, she made an invaluable discovery; she learned about JTCC’s On-Ramp program, which helps dislocated workers by providing financial support; career planning assistance; academic and employment resources; and much more. Byrd spoke to the On-Ramp coordinator, LaWanda Woods, applied to the program, and was accepted. Through On-Ramp, Byrd learned about career planning offered through the Virginia Education Wizard; got the opportunity to attend workshops designed to help people prepare for job searches, and received financial assistance for tuition and textbooks. The financial help was extremely important to her – especially since she is a single mother and a caregiver to her own mother. “It helped me get through my courses faster,” said Byrd. “Without that help, it would have taken me longer to complete my degree.” Also helpful: the support she received from the program’s coordinator. “Ms. Woods always was there when I needed her,” said Byrd.

While at Tyler, Byrd has kept her focus on school. “The last three years have been busy and chaotic,” Byrd reflected. “I’ve given up going out with friends, and I’ve missed family functions. That’s been hard, but I think in the long run, it will be worth it.” Byrd’s experience also has made her realize something very important. “It’s shown me that I can do more than I thought I could do. The challenge has given me confidence in myself.”

Byrd is now celebrating the benefits of that hard work. This summer, she completed her degree, and now she’s preparing to move on to the next part of her academic journey. She’s been accepted into Virginia Commonwealth University’s nuclear medicine program and will start this fall. 

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