Sulphur Springs Resource Center Celebrates CNA Graduates

They came with parents, siblings and significant others. One even brought her toddler daughter.

When the latest cohort of United Way Suncoast certified nursing assistants gathered for their graduation in Sulphur Springs on Nov. 3, the moment called for family — their immediate family and their new family, a group of supporters United Way Suncoast senior manager Kimberly Miller calls, “The Village.”

This ambitious group of women, all dressed in maroon medical uniforms, celebrated completion of the CNA training program with big smiles and big support. Members from the eight agencies that had lent guidance during the eight-week session stepped up to underscore their advice and offer assurances that The Village will continue to stand with them.

Lessons and Life Skills

These new CNAs take with them the ins and outs of assisting medical personnel. Through a partnership with Hillsborough Community College Allied Health Institute for Corporate and Continuing Education (HCC/ICCE), the program involved classroom, lab and online training, including 40 hours in the clinical setting. Stephanie Perry, a registered nurse and HCC instructor, led the work for this cohort

But they also leave with the life skills that can elevate their careers and the encouragement that can help them persevere. Each student received a full scholarship, and UWS provided wrap around support and resources for the students.

Officials from Dress for Success (Katie McGill), CDC of Tampa (Lafe Thomas and Dr. John Loblack), Tampa Family Health Centers (Harold Jackson), CareerSource Tampa Bay (Danielle Copeland), Positive Spin (Priscilla Perez) and Devereux Kids (Lenora Wynn) all reiterated their inspiring advice. Jacqueline Coffie-Leeks, executive director of the Sulphur Springs Neighborhood of Promise, capped off the ceremony at the North Tampa Community Center with a keynote address that underscored perseverance, character and hope.

The trove of life lessons will be an important asset for CNA graduate Tajh Chatman, who concedes she can be her own worst critic.

“I will tell myself I’m going to do something and then at the slightest change, I start doubting and start thinking the worse is going to happen and I’m never going to be who I set out to be in life,” said Tajh, 32. “But I think coming here and listening to all the encouraging words from everyone showed me it’s not just me.

“Now I know that there’s actually people out here who care about us and want to see us grow and want to see us thrive.”

Ambitious Outlooks

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) work in a variety of healthcare settings providing basic healthcare services to patients at nursing homes/rehab facilities and hospitals. The new CNAs not only will look to meet the industry’s demand with their new certification, but they’ll strive to advance their careers to higher positions in the medical field. Many aspire to become registered nurses, a few want to be doctors, including an oncologist.

Kalea Lake aspires to open a health center in an underserved neighborhood. She says the training has helped crystalize her vision.

“Believe it or not, I’m actually in a transitional period in my life,” said Kalea, 27. “I’m trying to do better for myself, knowing I deserve better because I’ve worked hard for it. I’m building up my confidence. This came right on time. It’s a blessing.”

United Way Suncoast will continue to lend guidance to these inspiring women as they move forward. For more information about the program, please call the United Way Sulphur Springs Resource Center (813) 936-3064 or email

Photo: Hillsborough Community College instructor and registered nurse Stephanie Perry poses with the latest group of certified nursing assistants to complete training in the United Way Suncoast/HCC program. Tajh Chatman, Christina Norris, Gabrielle Groseclose, Jennifer Pena, Shanteah Jacobs, Courtney Godfrey. Back row: Kalea Lake, Emily Cancela. Not pictured: Sharontae Shepard, Kenyata Williams.

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