"My life changed. Everything changed." - Ashley Adams
"My life changed. Everything changed." That's how 25-year-old Ashley Adams describes the impact of completing the medical billing program offered through Helms Continuing Education at Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA.
"I felt like I was finally somebody," she says, "I felt like I could do anything."
Ashley walked into the Augusta campus Job Connection in 2010, weighed down by a series of poor choices and harsh events that left life looking like a dead-end. She was depressed. Her self-confidence was shot.
"I was frustrated and discouraged. I had nowhere to turn. I had nothing," she says.
Life piled up on Adams in her last year of high school, with a tangle of family, work and school issues she didn't know how to escape. A B student, she dropped out of school just four weeks into her senior year. Her self-worth plummeted and she continued to spiral downward through a series of jobs in fast food restaurants, taking orders and washing dishes.
Three years and many hard knocks later, Adams' grandmother took her to the Job Connection to find better work. It was there they learned about the Medical Billing Reimbursement Program, available at no cost to folks like Adams who meet certain criteria, including age limits and financial need.
Once enrolled, Adams' instructors say her determination to succeed was unstoppable.
Not only did she attend every class focused and prepared, she went beyond expectations, working eight hours a day instead of the required five for her internship in a medical office at Georgia Regents University. Supervisors there noticed her skill and drive, and offered her full-time work with benefits the last day of her internship.
Four years later, Adams still works in that office, doing everything from billing and coding to drawing blood (she recently completed a phlebotomy course covered by her employer). Because of her job, Adams, her husband and their infant son have stability, medical insurance and steady income. The lives of her stepson and grandmother have also improved dramatically.
"I knew the program at Helms was a once-in-a-lifetime chance," she says. "I knew I had to work hard. I'd learned nobody does it for you. If I hadn't done this program, there's no telling where I'd be - probably still working in a fast food restaurant, barely making it."