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FSCJ Launches Career Certificate Program For Low-Income High School Grads

FSCJ's Deerwood Center
Jessica Palombo

Florida State College at Jacksonville is launching a new program in the midst of the uncertain times caused by COVID-19 to help low-income high school seniors receive "accelerated career-related training and personal critical soft-skill development."

The Stepping Stones program is for Jacksonville-area seniors who are graduating from low-income, high-needs schools.

For qualifying students, an accelerated tuition-free program can be completed online during the summer.

“One of the great parts of it is, indeed, a generous stipend of up to $2,000,” said FSCJ Stepping Stones Program Interim Director Maggy C. Dartiguenave.

The stipend is intended to remove any financial barriers that the students may be facing. She said FSCJ will not stipulate how it can be spent but, “We will certainly ensure that – you know – they are spending it well.”

The specialized industry certificate tracks, which can be applied toward eventual degrees or qualify students for immediate employment, include:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  • Information Technology with CompTIA™ A+ Certification
  • Supply Chain Management (SCM Principles; Customer Service Operations)
  • Manufacturing - Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) and HAZWOPER

The program was originally intended to be conducted in small classroom settings, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire program will likely be taught online.  

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

If students are ultimately allowed to return to campus this summer, then the program’s participants would possibly shift to whatever FSCJ campus specializes in their chosen discipline. As an example, Certified Nursing Assistant students would report to the North Campus.

The Stepping Stones program will include individualized advising and tutoring as well as financial aid and scholarship assistance, effectively making it free for its roughly 75 students.  Free bus passes will also be provided to students who need them.

It also involves training in life skills like time management, financial planning, goal-setting, critical thinking and problem solving.

“The goal of the program is to create whole students before we send them out there onto the job site. We want to make sure that not only are they educated in the classroom and earn the certification, but we also want them to know how to go out there and present to employers,” Dartiguenave said.

For students and guardians who are interested, live question and answer sessions are being held daily via Zoom between Monday, April 20, and Friday, April 24, at 3:15 p.m.

Dartiguenave is also encouraging employers to partner with FSCJ to help ensure the program’s students find jobs.

Prospective students and employers can learn more at

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Bill joined WJCT News in September of 2017 from The Florida Times-Union, where he served in a variety of multimedia journalism positions.