Working in sales provided Cindy Monge with a job but not with financial stability.
She established a long-term goal of earning a bachelor’s degree in perfusion science. As a perfusionist, Monge would run the cardiopulmonary-bypass machine during open-heart surgery, allowing the heart to be still for the surgeon while the machine performs its job, maintaining blood flow to the body’s tissues.
Monge also established a short-term goal that would align with her long-term plans. She decided to pursue an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy care. Monge then enrolled at South Texas College. She quickly discovered why the burden of tuition and books often cause people to stray from their goals. Then she heard about VIDA, the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement.
VIDA addresses the need for skilled workers in the Rio Grande Valley by preparing the region’s unemployed and underemployed for high-skill, high-wage jobs. Students accepted into the program are assigned a career counselor who provides unique wraparound services designed to help them overcome the barriers that historically plague this demographic.
These services include weekly group counseling sessions covering topics such as time management, dealing with stress and finances. Sessions integrate soft skills like resume preparation, study skills and interviewing. Guest speakers also cover subjects like building savings, home buying and retirement planning.
Monge applied to VIDA and was accepted.
“VIDA has helped me financially,” Monge said, “making it possible for me to attend school.”
For Monge, this financial assistance included help with tuition and books.
In May, Monge reached her short-term goal, graduating from STC with an Associate of Applied Science in respiratory therapy care. Once she passes a credentialing exam through the National Board for Respiratory Care, Monge will be a certified respiratory therapist, working with doctors to provide therapy to patients with asthma, pneumonia, emphysema and other lung-related illnesses. With an AAS degree from an accredited college and a passing score on her board exam, Monge will earn state licensure, as well.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a respiratory therapist in 2019 was $61,330. Starting salary is generally over $40,000 per year. For Monge, a single mother of three, she knows her life is about to change.
Now, she said, she will have financial stability. With VIDA’s help, Monge and her children will be living a more secure VIDA.