Project HOPE Helps Students on Path to Healthcare Careers

Photo of Project HOPE participants in nursing simulation lab
Dana McAlhany, right, ADN freshman-level coordinator and simulation lab manager at OCtech, helps Project HOPE students Charlene Tyler, left, and Jessica Jones work with a manikin in the college’s simulation lab. The deadline to apply for the next Project HOPE boot camp is July 1.

Five women now have hope for a better future, thanks to a federally funded grant program available at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.

Project HOPE – Healthcare Occupations Preparation for Employment – has been providing low-income South Carolina residents with education and training in healthcare careers at state technical colleges for nearly eight years. However, this is the first time that the program’s boot camps have being offered at OCtech.

“Students in our boot camps are guaranteed admission to the healthcare program of their choice and receive a full scholarship to attend,” said Toni McLaurin-Hyde, Midlands regional coordinator for the S.C. Department of Social Services’ Division of Employment Services. “They go through the admissions process during boot camp. The boot camp is actually college preparation. Students get certified in CPR and HIPAA, and learn time management, financial management, notetaking and study skills – all before they go to school.”The five-week boot camps are an intensive academic and hands-on training session taught by a team of health science instructors from the college. Students also spend a week job-shadowing.

“It’s amazing. It’s life-changing,” McLaurin-Hyde said. “We have students in our program right now who saw no way of going to college. They may come from generational poverty and have never seen anyone else in their family even attempt college. They didn’t think they could afford it, or they only saw Mom on welfare or things like that. Now, they see this as a new start. When they get into our program, they get so excited.”

Project HOPE is a Health Profession Opportunity Grant funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. Students must have a demonstrated financial need to qualify. Eligible participants are then interviewed and must pass a background check and drug screening before being entered into a lottery for the program.

“Up to 16 individuals can participate in the boot camp at OCtech,” McLaurin-Hyde said. Those who are not selected are referred to other programs for which they may qualify.

“We also have a program called 2Gen,” she said. “We focus on the second generation – not just the students who are here now, but their children – to let them see, ‘Look at Mom. Look at Dad. They’re doing something great, but you can do this also.”

The first boot camp began May 15 and concludes with a graduation ceremony on June 16. The next boot camp will be held July 10-Aug. 11. Applications are being accepted through July 1.

“Project HOPE opened my eyes to see that nursing is what I have always wanted to do,” said Talaysia Johnson, who has already taken some of her prerequisite courses at the college and will begin OCtech’s ADN program in the fall. “Not everyone is financially able to get through school. Whatever you can’t do financially, Project HOPE will do for you.

“Now that I’m actually in this program and getting a feel for what nursing is like, it’s pushing me to achieve my goal.”

Jessica Jones also has her sights set on the college’s ADN program. The mother of three was originally taking early childhood courses at OCtech, but decided it wasn’t for her.

“Having a disabled child and a handicapped aunt got me wanting to be a nurse,” said Jones, a certified nursing assistant. “This program is exciting. They introduce us to things before we actually get into the classes so we won’t be as lost. It’s preparing me.”

She said while there will always be circumstances in life that may make you feel like you can’t achieve your dreams, you should never give up.

“Don’t let anything stop you,” Jones said. “You’re going to have bumps you’ve got to get over. You’re going to have trials. Things are going to happen, but don’t stop. There are people who will help you and who have your back. Just take as much help as you need. Don’t be afraid.”

To apply for Project HOPE, call McLaurin-Hyde at 803-898-7803, the OCtech Admissions Office at 803-535-1234 or Kim Miller at 803-535-1233, email or visit From there, click on the “Assistance Programs” tab, then “Work Programs” and “Health Occupation Training/Project HOPE.”