72°FOvercastFull Forecast

Local woman ‘gets where she’s heading’ with GAP assistance

Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 10:59 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 2:40 p.m. CDT
Sarah Biddenback poses for a photo in work attire after being hired to be a certified nurse's aid at Prairie View Assisted Living. Biddenback went back to college and earned her CNA certification with aid from GAP funding.

Sarah Jane Biddenback has a job as a certified nurse’s assistant at Prairie View Assisted Living, but not too long ago, she had little to no idea when she would have a steady job and how quick the process was to get her there.

So, Biddenback of Creston, formerly of Bedford, went to Southwestern Community College (SWCC) Pathway Navigator Kelsey Hollen for more information.

First time around

Biddenback, 27, went to SWCC in 2007 to earn a degree and certification to be a nurse.

“I was going for my AA (associate’s degree), and then I was going to go for my RN (registered nurse certification),” Biddenback said.

Biddenback, a 2007 Bedford High School graduate, found out she had ADD (attention deficit disorder), which made it difficult for her to manage college and work schedules. In October 2013, Biddenback lost her job at her then-employer, and turned to Iowa Works.

“I was turned onto the GAP program through Iowa Works (Iowa Workforce Development),” Biddenback said. “I’d tried getting into the CNA (certified nursing aide) program back when I was 16 to 18, I had my very first job through Bedford Nursing and Rehab, and wasn’t eligible for it. Got into college (in 2014), and the CNA program was up. Sweet. Timing is everything.”


Biddenback was one of many students who received help from GAP funding at SWCC. GAP funding is a tuition assistance program put into place so community colleges can give need-passed tuition assistance to applicants to complete continuing education certificate training programs, such as Biddenback’s choice of career, CNA.

“It has been memorable and awesome, and people I meet, I explain, I brag about the GAP program and Kelsey every single time I get a chance,” Biddenback said. “Because it helps everything, from paying for CNA classes and other courses people need to maintain employment to making sure you look your best for the potential interviews, and flexibility of their schedule is awesome.”

Biddenback also received assistance through PACE. PACE, which stands for pathways for academic career and employment, is a funding program established for community colleges to allow eligible participants to acquire academic and employment training to secure quality in-state employment.

Biddenback’s PACE funds helped her attend a resume-writing course, as well as helped her learn what to expect at employment interviews.

Second time around

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and looked into, but the timing’s always been off, or wrong,” Biddenback said.

Biddenback attended a three-week CNA course through Southwestern Community College in February. While attending the class, she also attended a resumé workshop at Iowa Workforce Development, which helped Biddenback learn to build her resumé for when she applies for jobs.

In March, Biddenback finished the CNA course, a five-days per week course lasting eight hours a day.

“It was something that I wasn’t used to,” Biddenback said. “We had 70 hours of class time, I think, and then, we had clinicals the last week, along with lab time. So, it was very different having class in the morning, and then lab in the evening, and then clinicals.”

“We went to Crest Haven Care Center (for clinicals), and we got one-on-one with all the residents that were there, as well as the nursing staff and the current CNAs there.”


After becoming a certified CNA, Biddenback applied to jobs online, including one for a position at Prairie View Assisted Living. She then attended a job fair at the college in Creston, and met with employees at Prairie View Assisted Living. They made a connection.

“I went to the job fair,” Biddenback said. “Handed them my resumé, and I think that they were calling me in to do a background check. And, a couple days later I was called in to do orientation.”

Biddenback is currently employed as a CNA at Prairie View, working night shift.

“I love it,” Biddenback said. “It’s mainly just overnight care for anyone who needs assistance emulating to the restroom, giving overnight medication if needed, and so on and so forth.”

Biddenback plans to eventually continue her education and do the LPN (licensed practical nurse) and RN (registered nurse) programs.

“It was well worth it,” Biddenback said of the process. “There is always stress, but having a good foundation of people who listen makes the stress worth it because you realize the stress is not just bad stress. It’s good stress that you need to go where you’re heading.”

For more information, contact Hollen at hollen@swcciowa.edu or 782-1424.

Previous Page|1|2|Next Page

Reader Poll

What returning TV show are you most excited for this fall?
Empire (FOX)
Big Bang Theory (CBS)
The Voice (NBC)