Krystal McClure
Two years ago, Krystal McClure was living in a shelter with her then one and a half year-old daughter, and no job, no training and no prospects. She saw a flyer from Action for Boston Community Development (Boston ABCD) that was promoting its course on First Steps into Childcare Careers.

McClure had always wanted to work in child care but never had the opportunity to get the certification she needed to get a job in the field. That first course at Boston ABCD led to eight more stimulus-funded courses, certifications and a job. McClure and her daughter are now living in her condo in Franklin Hill and she is pursuing her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education.

"I'm one of those people who thought they couldn't be in college," she says.

Many of McClure's fellow classmates felt the same way. But thanks to funding through the Recovery Act, McClure and hundreds of others have been able to get

Krystal McClure, Nancy DiPaolo and a group from Boston ABCD
themselves training, jobs and continuing education through Boston ABCD's stimulus-funded LearningWorks program which trains people for careers in early childhood education, elder services, medical office technology, community health work and construction. The program was implemented using the $9.6 million Community Service Block Grant that the agency was awarded in July, 2009. The agency also used the funds to expand its existing programs - such as Summer Youth Employment, Foster Grandparents and Financial Literacy education - and develop additional new ones.

Claire Shepherd and Patricia Finnegan
For McClure, the opportunity at Boston ABCD meant that she saw the potential for an income other than welfare and a career that she would enjoy. As Patricia Finnegan, the director of the Early Childhood Education program in LearningWorks, says the subsidized employment portion of the program -- which McClure did not need because she secured a job upon graduating from her first certification course -- means its participants can put bread on the table immediately and then the ripple effect is the support and opportunity to go on for higher degrees.

"Our goal is to get people on an academic path to higher education," says Claire Shephard, the director of LearningWorks.

McClure is well on her way. She has taken courses on early childhood, special education and infant/toddler curriculum and participated in the LearningWorks job readiness program which provides temporary placements and help creating a portfolio and a resume as well as learning interview skills. McClure says her training and skils helped her get her job at a Montessori school.

Krystal McClure and her friend

In addition to working full time, McClure continues to take every course offered in her stimulus-funded program at LearningWorks, New Careers/Next Steps Continuing Education, and is 24 credits into her Associate's Degree. With three credits left to go, McClure is determined to finish it. It is that determination, along with the support of her teachers and her classmates in the program that is keeping her going. "It is amazing how hard people strive," says Finnigan, referring to McClure's commute when she first started the program which involved leaving the shelter at 6:30 AM to drop her daughter off at day care in Mattapan and then returning to the city to be in class by 9 AM.

McClure refers to her certification as her "first steps to womanhood, to motherhood." Thanks to her job, she is now living independently in her condo.

Krystal McClure and Nancy DiPaolo

"Being a single mom with no training, it's hard to do the transformation to being an adult, getting a job and getting a place to live. [Boston ABCD] stuck with me the whole time," says McClure. "I am so grateful for the stimulus program. If it wasn't for the stimulus program, I wouldn't have the skills I needed to get a job. My whole class [at LearningWorks] got these skills to get a job. Many of us were in shelters, have kids, there are a lot of us who are struggling to get through life like I am."