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Cassandra Crum-Stratton, left, ready to work coordinator at Big Sandy Community and Technical College, is shown working with student Diana Hall.Cassandra Crum-Stratton, Ready to Work (RTW) coordinator at Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC), presented at the National Network to End Domestic Violence Conference sponsored by the All State Foundation in Chicago, Ill., on August 4.

Stratton, of Paintsville, presented with Mary ODoherty, assistant executive director of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence (KCADV); Andrea Miller, Economic Justice Services coordinator; and Matt Strother, Ready to Work coordinator at Gateway Community and Technical College.

The Ready to Work programs at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) have collaborated with KCADV to provide financial education to Ready to Work and Work and Learn students by the means of Individual Development Accounts, financial education workshops lead by the All State Foundation curriculum, emergency funds, micro loans and credit counseling.

This is a unique approach to providing low-income students access to savings accounts that pay for their education, said Stratton. Students are gaining knowledge of financial education and receiving credit counseling, which is life changing. We are leading the way in innovation and professionals all over the United States were surprised to see such a collaboration that is so successful.

According to ODoherty, Nearly 73 percent of the Ready to Work and Work and Learn students completing the Kentucky Coalition against Domestic Violences evaluation reported experiencing domestic violence with 35 percent of students saying they experienced the domestic violence in the last 12 months.

Stratton added: For those who work with these college students, these are startling results. This collaboration allows students and domestic violence survivors to receive the support they need.

Two BSCTC students were highlighted during the presentation. Diana Hall has used her Individual Development Account to pay for her college tuition and books. She also increased her credit score by over 60 points by using a micro loan. Kayla Music, a former Ready to Work student, maximized the $5,000 individual Development Account limit to pay for her tuition, books and a laptop. Out of the 16 KCTCS colleges, BSCTC won recognition for the first to have three students increase their credit score by over 50 points, with one student surpassing her score by more than 100 points.

During the last six years, I have seen extreme circumstances for our Ready to Work students, including financial burdens, domestic violence, or substance abuse, said Stratton. The goal is to assist students in becoming self-sufficient and to remove barriers. We look at what will help them obtain their college diploma and find a self-sustaining job.

For more information on BSCTCs Ready to Work and Work and Learn programs, contact Stratton at (606) 205-0138 or email