Hello my name is India Sims. I had a spinal cord injury at 10 months old from a lumbar puncture and have been partially paralyzed since then. I graduated from CATech in 2003 and Virginia School of Massage in 2009 with degrees in cosmetology, make-up artist, esthetician, and massage therapy. While I have been successful during those times, I faced many unfair obstacles. I’m a success but I know too many people that didn’t make it.
During high school, I enrolled in CATech in order to get a cosmetology and barber license. I had to research CATech on my own, no guidance counselor or teacher suggested it. It wasn’t until after I asked; that my counselor helped me
Once enrolled in CATech, the process doesn’t get any easier. High school students have to pay for their materials and people had to quit classes because they couldn’t afford the costs. I was able to pay only because of disability insurance. My supplies cost between $100-$200 per semester. Financial Aid is difficult to obtain. I was told that was because so many people drop out that they are reluctant to give more aid.
Adults wanting to take vocational classes face even more issues. There is no bus route to CATech so people rely on friends, walking, or expensive taxis to travel to and from school. Adults also have to take pre-tests in order to enter CATEC, PVCC, or other votech colleges. If they fail these tests they have to pay to retake the class until they pass it. For some it has been years since they took math or science and these pre-tests and the cost of remedial classes prevent many from entering a training program. Enrollment is difficult. Some classes are only offered at night and many classes fill-up quickly. The schedule for classes is not easy or manageable for many with children. I was fortunate to have my mom take care of my son. But it certainly wasn’t easy on her or me. She was taking care of an infant after a full day of work. For many there are no viable childcare options, most daycare facilities close before classes even start.
Financial Aid for adult votech training is extremely limited and difficult to obtain. I qualified for a loan but the aid office did not help me secure one. Even though I knew the system I couldn’t get a loan. I did everything I could but ultimately it was either keep on arguing and not go to school or finance it on my own. I will be paying back my school debt for at least the next 10 years. They were not upfront about the fees, and I didn’t know how much I owed until after graduation. I have been paying back my loan but they just sent my debt to collections. They are now calling my mom to try and get the money.
It’s not worth it to be in debt for years paying for training that is not valued. I paid more for my classes than my annual income. The biggest problem is that schools are too expensive and too difficult to access.
People should not have to face this many obstacles when they are just trying to better their lives. The difficulties I faced trying to get training were harder than those I face as a disabled woman. That’s just not right. I face enough challenges; it should have been easier to get an education and training. And it wasn’t.