CalWorks recognized as top program

By Stephanie Garibay

The CalWORKs staff’s initiative to create a video on behalf of the program led to the department’s recognition as one of the top programs in California.

The staff was recognized at the 2015 CalWORKs association conference in San Diego on April 14.

The YouTube video caught the attention of Vice Chancellor of California’s CalWORKs departments Denise Noldon as she was searching online for student success stories.

The recognition came as a surprise to the ELAC CalWORKs staff in attendance.

“It was an honor for (Noldon) to even mention us at the conference. We oversee the CalWORKs Department at ELAC, but she oversees the CalWORKs departments throughout all of California. So she’s a pretty important person to impress, and we are honored,” CalWORKs director at ELAC Gina Chelstrom said.

The video includes the success stories of two previous CalWORKs students, including Michael A. Rivera.

“I was actually able to get a job, through CalWORKs, over at the women’s physical education department. It’s a part time job, but it helps me out a great deal,” Rivera said.

CalWORKs, which stands for California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids, is a time-limited Welfare-to-Work (WtW) program, that assists eligible low-income families.

CalWORKs students have a limited time to be in the program, 48 months total in a lifetime for most adults.

Due to the time limit, CalWORKs students are on a strict schedule to complete their goal.

CalWORKs provides training and education as well as help with job searches and job opportunities.

Single parents must participate in these activities for 20 or 30 hours a week.

Two-parent households must participate 35 hours per week.

CalWORKs’ students must meet the requirements to establish and continue eligibility in the program.

“Our program’s focus is preparing CalWORKs students for the workforce. Our ultimate goal is to lead them to self-sufficiency and independence,” Maria T. Navarro said, a case manager for ELAC’s CalWORKs Department.

CalWORKs at ELAC serves around 600 students per semester, making it one of the biggest CalWORKs Departments in Southern California.

“We’re a really big operation. We’re bigger than many of our sister colleges. We get a lot of students who come in here and say this feels like a second home to them. And that makes me feel really good,” Chelstrom said.

Although they serve a lot of students, CalWORKs tries to make each student feel comfortable.

“We want them to have a very different experience than when they walk into a county office, because unfortunately when you walk into a county office, they may or may not get good treatment,” Navarro said.

“I’m very proud to work here. We have a very good team,” Chelstrom said. “We are fortunate to have our Vice President, Laura M. Ramirez, who fully supports us in our efforts to make the workforce connection for our participants.”

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