Growing up in Rogers Park, Carita Bailey Thompson realized at a young age that she wanted to make a difference for people in her city who looked like her. Carita’s desire to advocate for vulnerable populations sparked her interest in social services, and she knew that advancing her education in the field would also advance her career. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a master’s degree in Urban Research (Chicago Studies Program) from Loyola University, she began building that career, but she wasn’t done furthering her education just yet.

While working at the Chicago Housing Authority in 2012, a colleague told Carita about the Nursing Home Administration certificate that was offered through City Colleges of Chicago at that time. The certificate would be an opportunity to both move ahead in the field and make a significant impact in providing comfort to vulnerable populations as they age. Carita and her colleague started taking classes together at Wright College, but due to financial constraints, Carita made the difficult decision to put the certificate on hold.

Fast forward several years to 2020, when earlier this year, Carita, who now lives and works in Bronzeville, received an email from City Colleges about the Fresh Start program. She read through the email and learned that her prior debts from the classes she took at Wright back in 2013 would be relieved if she completed her certificate. The prospect encouraged Carita to re-enroll in courses at Wright College in August 2020, and she was able to complete the five-month Nursing Home Administration certificate in December.

Taking classes focused on nursing home administration in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic forced Carita and her classmates to deeply examine the extreme challenges long-term care facilities currently face. They were able to discuss critical and salient topics such as how to incorporate Zoom programming into the activity schedules of tech-savvy seniors and other creative ways to prevent isolation among seniors living independently and nursing home residents in a safe manner.

As health care workers have increasingly emerged as the essential heroes of the pandemic, it’s clear that Carita’s new certificate will not only advance her career, but it will enable Carita to make an even larger impact on vulnerable populations – right here in her hometown.


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