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 DHS News May 2013    

MOST Program Graduate Wins State Award 

LaKisha Ford makes a joke, but in a way, she’s spot on.


LaKisha Ford, left, and Cathy Hester, director of Modern Office Systems Technology at CCAC, who nominated LaKisha for the award.   

“I had to ‘man up,’ as a woman,” says LaKisha, of West Mifflin, laughing.

As a single mother of two teenagers, who also had guardianship
of a teen-aged niece and an ailing mother, LaKisha needed some muscle behind her determination to be self-sufficient.

She found it inside herself. And in April, LaKisha was honored statewide for her gumption. The Community Action Association of Pennsylvania bestowed its Self-Sufficiency Award on her at its
annual meeting in Harrisburg.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” said LaKisha. “It made me realize
all of this hard work and stress is worth it.”

LaKisha’s journey to the award began in September 2011. Then 37, she had lost her fulltime job. Although she holds a bachelor’s
degree in education from Penn State University, she had not been
able to find a new position that paid the salary and benefits
necessary to support the family members who relied on her.

She was receiving unemployment compensation and medical
assistance but she knew that would not sustain her family in the long run, and she wanted to be off the programs.

“I needed to make sure my family was going to be OK,” said LaKisha.

She knew that to be successful, she needed to upgrade her resume and brush up her basic office skills.

She discovered the Modern Office Systems Technology (MOST) program at Community College of Allegheny County. The program in Braddock, which she attended, is funded by DHS through the Office of Community Services. 

She went to classes for four hours a day for about a year, learning basic administrative skills, such as filing, business math and Microsoft Office Suite. She held down a part-time retail job for some of the time she went to school.

After graduating from MOST, LaKisha found fulltime employment as a service coordinator for Goodwill, working in McKeesport to help public assistance recipients develop job skills.

Now free of public assistance, LaKisha knows she can be a role model.

 “I’ve had a chance to give back,” LaKisha said. “Hopefully, I can encourage the girls in my program to keep striving. I tell them that you have to get up every day with a plan and keep motivated. You’re right around the corner from success.”

Cathy Hester, director of MOST, nominated LaKisha for the CAAP award. Cathy said LaKisha’s determination was exceptional.

“She just wanted to get a job so badly,” Cathy said. “You could just see she was hungry for that. It is refreshing.”

She said she retains her determination to keep improving her life. She wants to finish her graduate degree in gerontology, secure an even better job and perhaps get a house.

“Life doesn’t have to just stop because there is a crisis or problem,” LaKisha said. “At the same time, you have to try to make the transitions you need in order to be a success.”

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