By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — The pay won’t make you rich, but the jobs are in demand.
And with their training as certified nurse assistants behind them, Kourtney Booker and Francis Ihenacho can begin dreaming bigger dreams.
“My goal is to graduate from UMKC with a degree in nursing,” said Booker, 21.
“My goal is to work as a CNA and study to be a nurse,” said Ihenacho, an immigrant from Nigeria. “I want to take care of my patients and take care of my children, too.”
That was the idea when Wanda Estill and Chinyere Ofudu launched Assumpta Allied Heath Career Center to help students like Booker and Ihenacho achieve one dream, then dream bigger.
And it all began with the help of two Catholic priests.
Estill said that while her and Ofudu’s dream was still barely a dream, she approached Father Ernie Davis, administrator of St. Therese Little Flower Parish for some direction.
Father Davis pulled two things from his shelf.
One was a master plan that his parish had done, citing training for stable jobs as one of the greatest needs for the south central Kansas City neighborhood surrounding the parish.
The second was a business plan for a program to begin training assistants for the health care industry that was prepared by Father Terrell Finnell, pastor of St. Monica Parish at 1600 the Paseo.
Estill said she took both and ran with it.
“These jobs are in demand,” she said. “We are teaching job skills.”
Faculty was no problem. Both Estill and Ofudu hold master’s degrees in nursing. Estill holds another master’s degree in public health, and Ofudu holds another master’s degree in business administration.
They quickly found a sponsor. The University of Mary of Fargo, N.D., which sponsors similar education programs in North Kansas City, signed on.
And they quickly found classroom space. The University of Missouri-Kansas City agreed to lease a former fast food restaurant converted into classroom space at 5322 Troost Ave., right along the Metro bus line.
Then she needed students. Enter the Kansas City Full Employment Council.
“We get referrals from them,” Estill said. “We are hoping that our next class will have six students.”
It doesn’t take long, only about six weeks, to provide the training to pass the state certification test, Estill said. She soon hopes to expand into pharmacy assistant programs.
But that is if the program survives. Although it does receive some public funding, Assumpta Allied Health Career Center is also being funded out of the pockets of Estill and Ofudu until a stable source of funding can be secured.
“That’s why we are hoping to find donors,” Estill said. “We’re struggling, but we’re not giving up. All we need is some financial support.”
Estill said that once Assumpta survives its earliest years, it will take off with more programs offered to provide training that can in a matter of weeks, turn lives around.
That is why both Booker and Ihenacho came.
Booker said that she began her college education at UMKC with the goal of becoming a nurse when she hit a financial brick wall. She then worked, while continuing with community college classes when she heard that she could begin a health care career after six weeks of training at Assumpta.
“I want the experience,” she said. “I like helping people, and I want a career as a nurse.”
Ihenacho said his training as a certified nurse assistant will be a step up from his former minimum-wage job, while leading him toward becoming a registered nurse.
“I wanted to be a CNA so when I heard about this place, I decided to go for it,” he said.
For more information about Assumpta Allied Heath Career Center, call (816) 276-5448.