Posted on Tuesday, August 27, 2019

“I’ve been living paycheck to paycheck my entire life,” said Dawn Thorne. “All I want is to pay my bills on time, be able to cover unexpected expenses, take an annual vacation or two, and enjoy living my life.”

Thorne’s story is all too common. Working Virginians across the state don’t make enough to support the needs of their families and afford the training and credentials to get higher paying jobs.
This is where Pathways to the American Dream (Pathways) comes in. A four-year project run by the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Board, Pathways aims to build a pipeline of skilled workers to help businesses fill existing job openings in manufacturing, healthcare, and information technology.

Targeting unemployed, underemployed, and incumbent workers, the project serves individuals in 25 counties and 8 cities in Virginia, including the Alleghany Highlands, Roanoke Valley, West Piedmont, New River Valley and Southwest Virginia.

Thorne became a Pathways participant in January of 2019 with only one semester of coursework with Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) remaining to achieve her dream of becoming a Registered Nurse.

On August 14, VWCC held an individual pinning ceremony for Dawn and she will sit for her NCLEX exam in the next month then transition into her full-time nursing position.

Pathways aims to enroll over 1,100 Virginians in education and training activities by December 2020. Benchmarks are set high – 85% complete training activities, 75% complete training and receive a credential, 75% of total unemployed and under-employed obtain employment and 90% of total incumbent workers advance into a new position. The project is on track to exceed these goals by wide margins.

“While we do target those who are unemployed, we also focus on helping people caught in the middle class crunch—those who can’t afford training but make too much to receive federal workforce training assistance,” said Jenny Bolte, project manager of Pathways to the American Dream.

Students in the Pathways program are currently enrolled at Mountain Empire, Southwest, Virginia Highlands, Wytheville, New River, Virginia Western, Patrick Henry and Danville Community Colleges.

Pathways to the American Dream is a $7,500,000 project. $6,000,000 (75%) is provided through a Federal grant from the United States Department of Labor – Employment and Training Administration. $1,500,000 (25%) is provided through other sources, including leveraged state and local funds.

For more information on Pathways to the American Dream, please contact Jenny Bolte at'

Amanda Christopher

Amanda Christopher is a graduate of Hollins University and Virginia Commonwealth University. A native of the DC metro area, Amanda worked in public relations for the American Red Cross before joining the Virginia Community College System as the Workforce Communications Coordinator.

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