Allied Services scholarship program helps employees expand their careers

Allied Services scholarship program helps employees expand their careers

REPOSTED FROM SCRANTON TIMES - by Terrie Morgan Besecker

Karissa Lasher wasn’t sure she was making the right decision when, three years ago, she took a position as a resident assistant for adults with intellectual disabilities at Allied Services Integrated Health System.

The 27-year-old Scranton woman was working as a waitress and bartender and never envisioned herself in the health care field. Today she’s still at Allied and, thanks to a scholarship program it offers, is taking the next step to become a registered nurse.

“I did make good money in the restaurant business but it was not as rewarding,” Lasher said. “Now I come to work and my verbal clients will come running to me saying ‘I love you so much.’ ... They’re like family.”

Lasher is among 14 Allied Services employees who made use of a scholarship program the health care provider launched in January 2022 that pays tuition for employees to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in any field offered at Lackawanna College. The company pays full tuition for full-time employees. Part-timers qualify for a partial scholarship.

The program is a win-win for employees and Allied, said Jim Brogna, vice president for strategic partnership development. The employee has an opportunity to expand their skills in their existing field or, like Lasher, explore other careers. Allied benefits from a more highly trained staff. It also helps in recruiting applicants, he said.

To be eligible, employees must work at least 20 hours a week, remain employed throughout their schooling and maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average. They are not required to commit to work for Allied post-graduation, but Brogna expects most will opt to stay.

“We’re investing in people that are already taking care of people for us,” Brogna said. “The likelihood that they will choose a career path, whether it’s clinical or nonclinical, that will end up fulfilling another opportunity within the Allied services system is high.”

Lasher currently works as an aide assisting residents with daily living activities at Lynett Village, a residential program for intellectually disabled on the campus of the Allied Services Scranton Rehab Hospital in Scranton.

She said knew she made the right choice shortly after taking the job and realized how much a difference she could make in her clients’ lives.

“A lot of my residents don’t have families to be there for them and show them love and affection,” Lasher said. “I let them know someone in the world does care about them and make them feel wanted and appreciated.”

She decided last year she wanted to further her career, but as a single mother raising two children, ages 9 and 4, finances were tight. The scholarship program made it possible.

“It will take a lot of weight off my shoulders,” Lasher said.

She recently completed her first semester and expects to earn her associate of science degree in May 2024.

She hopes to continue her education and become a nurse practitioner with a specialty is psychiatry and mental health, which would allow her to continue working with developmentally delayed adults.

“It’s something I never saw myself doing. Now it’s something I can never see myself not doing,” she said.

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