In May, Ovation Communities graduated its first class from the Geriatric Career Development (GCD) program. GCD is a first-of-its kind initiative aimed at addressing the long-term care workforce crisis while helping at-risk youth secure higher education and job opportunities. The program first launched at The New Jewish Home in New York and was piloted in Wisconsin at Ovation starting in 2018.

“The GCD program is designed to help guide underserved youth academically and professionally,” said Briana Thompson, GCD Coordinator at Ovation Communities. “Helping high school students get into the work force by providing them the opportunities and tools they need to succeed.”

Ovation currently partners with four Milwaukee high schools: James Madison Academic Campus, Milwaukee Academy of Science, North Division High School and Washington High School. Students spend eight to 10 hours a week learning in the program. This year participants faced the extra challenge of conducting much of their training virtually, taking many classes over Zoom.

Through the GCD program students receive an introduction to the healthcare industry, professional development and life skills counseling, a resident elder mentor, and internship and job placement support. In addition, they have the opportunity to complete their CNA (certified nursing assistant) certification. Ovation also recently added CBRF (community-based residential facility) certification training as an alternative option for those who want to become resident assistants.

Over the past three years the program has grown exponentially. Five seniors graduated in 2021, and 10 juniors and 18 sophomores are in the pipeline. Of the graduating class, three are heading to college, one is pursuing work as a resident assistant, and one has been hired at Ovation as a CNA.

“We’re so proud of our graduates and can’t wait to see what’s next for them,” Thompson said.

Ovation hires first GCD program graduate

Ovation hired its first GCD program graduate, Ashanti Tate, in May. Tate now works as a CNA at Ovation Jewish Home. She is also a recent graduate of James Madison Academic Campus.

Tate was part of the first class to complete Ovation’s GCD program. Through GCD Tate learned she enjoys the healthcare field as well as the bonding experiences with fellow students, coworkers and residents. Her passion for helping others started at a young age when she began caring for her autistic brother. Tate takes a great sense of pride in her accomplishment and is looking forward to continuing her work at Ovation.

“I’m very happy to be able to start my career at Ovation,” said Tate. “Learning and working here has been very rewarding, and at the end of the day, I love my residents.”

Tate feels fortunate for the growth and learning opportunities the GCD program has allowed her. Because of the experience, she’s found her path in healthcare and is considering college at some point in the future to continue growing in her career.

Originally established in Partnership with LeadingAge and LeadingAge Wisconsin, the GCD Program is currently funded through private donations that have been solicited through the Jewish Home and  Care Center Foundation and a generous grant by the Harri Hoffman Family Foundation, as well The Herbert and Ruth L. Giller Family Endowment.