As a participant in the Goodwill Columbus State-Tested Nurse Aide program, Inez Edwards plans to use the training she receives as a springboard to a future career in nursing.

As a participant in the Goodwill Columbus State-Tested Nurse Aide program, Inez Edwards plans to use the training she receives as a springboard to a future career in nursing.

But right now, there's a more personal reason she is working toward certification as a nurse aid.

"My mom is ill and I want to be able to take care of my mom," Edwards said, "and I've always wanted to do something where I could help others. Since I was young, I wanted to go into nursing and help deliver children."

A grant from Huntington Bank will allow 20 low-income job-seekers to participate in the program and cover the basic $499 cost charged by Goodwill, said Debra Shinoskie, Goodwill's director of rehabilitation and workforce development.

The aide program is an Ohio Department of Health-approved training and competency evaluation program that prepares adults to become certified as nurse aides.

Participants in the program go through an intense four weeks of training, which includes 59 hours of classes during the first two weeks and an additional 16 hours putting what they've learned into real-life practice in a clinical setting at a long-term care facility.

"When they successfully complete the program, the participants have earned a certificate of achievement, which allows them to take the exam to earn their certification," Shinoskie said.

During the fourth and final week of the program, the students prepare to take the exam to become a state-tested nurse aide.

"It's a high-demand occupation," Shinoskie said. "You don't have to have a medical background or training, and people find they can apply the skills sets they have from taking care of a household or taking care of their children to this profession."

A state-tested nurse aide can earn between $9 and $14.50 an hour, she said.

Funding from the United Way allows Goodwill to keep the cost of its program at $499, "which is very competitive with other STNA programs," Shinoskie said.

While the cost is affordable for many people, "if you can't raise that amount of money by picking up the phone and calling friends or family or the bank, it might as well be $1 million," she said.

The Huntington Bank grant will be used to pay the program cost for individuals whose family income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, Shinoskie said.

About 85 percent of participants in Goodwill's STNA program are women, and the most-common age groups are from 18-35 and older than 50, she said.

"A lot of the younger people are young mothers who need to make an income or look at this as a job they can take while they pursue training or education in their chosen field," Shinoskie said. "A lot of our older participants who are closer to retirement age feel they have an understanding of what it takes to care for the aging population."

Having finished her first day of working in a clinical setting at First Community Village, Edwards said the experience has "been all fun so far.

"I was helping to feed (a FCV resident) today and I was thinking, 'Hey, this is like me taking care of my children,' " she said. "It's all common sense. It's similar to what you do to take care of your children.

"The more I learn, the more I begin to feel that I can handle this job," said Edwards, a Columbus resident.

The clinical week is allowing her to put into practice what she learned during the two weeks of classes, she said.

"This is such a great program," Edwards said. "I'm telling everybody I know about it. I'm excited because it's going to enable me to help other people."

Goodwill will offer its next State-Tested Nurse Aide class runs May 20 through June 7. Several other dates are scheduled for the rest of the year, Shinoskie said.

Those interested in the program can set up an informal orientation by calling 614-583-0449 or 614-583-0145.