Kasmaine Clarke

Kasmaine has bright eyes, a winning smile and a Jamaican lilt in her voice. When she was 3, her

grandmother became ill. Little Kasmaine took care of her and made her tea. Though she was a little girl, Kasmaine knew then she wanted to be a nurse. But even with a goal, the road hasn’t been easy.

When Kasmaine was 18, she and her mother left Jamaica and came to the U.S. Her mother wanted a better life for Kasmaine. So a few days before her high school graduation, Kasmaine found herself in the middle of a cold New England November. Her aunt urged her to register at the high school to get a U.S. diploma. But when Kasmaine brought her Jamaican transcript to Bloomfield High, she was told she’d be placed in 9th grade.

A new country. A new life. And a huge disappointment.

“I had to prove everybody wrong. I had to become something. I know what I want and what I want to be.”

That’s when Kasmaine met Brenda Colon and OPP. Brenda, the supervisor of Youth Development Services at OPP’s Learning Academy at Bloomfield, ensured Kasmaine got the help she needed.

Kasmaine worked hard to earn her diploma in 2014.She shared her dream of becoming an RN with Brenda, who connected Kasmaine to OPP’s Workforce Development team.

Kasmaine was thrilled to learn she could participate in the Allied Health career pipeline program, but Kasmaine also needs to work to help support her family.

Thanks to OPP, she learned about interviewing and presenting herself well. “I’d never had a job before. I didn’t know how to act!”

She’s working part-time at J.C. Penney’s while finishing her classes. That means morning studies, afternoon classes and work in the evening. It’s a busy schedule. But OPP is there to help.

Shanee Ransom, Kasmaine’s Workforce Development Specialist, is an important presence in her life. To make sure Kasmaine has the support she needs, OPP provides her with a tutor and helps her get to school. Shanee asks about her grades, how things are at home, how her job is going. “Do you need anything?”

“OPP has great people who know what you’re going through because they’ve been there. They help you get jobs, help you get a place, help you if your back is up against the wall. They push you to do your best.”

Kasmaine hopes to complete her certification courses in March. When she does, OPP has arranged an externship as a medical assistant and will then help her secure a permanent position, coaching her throughout her first year on the job. She’s excited about moving from the classroom to the real world.

She’d still like to continue her education to become an RN. As she knew when she was a little girl, she’ll be in a hospital, nursing people back to health. With her passion and OPP’s support she is well on her way.