Donnise Nole-Fuller wanted more out of life. She spent her days alone with her children while her husband was deployed. Then, she learned about an organization called Caroline Center that would enable her to further her education. The courses were free and she wouldn’t need to take out student loans.
“I wanted to be able to provide for my family,” says Nole-Fuller, a 2019 Caroline Center graduate who now works at the Johns Hopkins Hospital as a pharmacy technician. “It was an amazing opportunity that changed who I was and it prepared me for the job I have. Now I’m in a field where I can help people daily while also still being a mom — I can have the best of both worlds.”
Caroline Center career coordinator, student advisor and essential skills/professional readiness instructor Debbie Liesen says the organization’s efforts focus on women and energizing their professional and personal lives.
“By coming to the Caroline Center, a woman establishes herself on a career path and educates herself personally as well,” Liesen says. “If you educate a woman, you educate her neighborhood, her city and her world. We’re helping them grow to be their best selves.”
Caroline Center was founded in 1996 by the School Sisters of Notre Dame with the mission to teach unemployed and underemployed women the discipline, knowledge and skills necessary to find work in careers that offer growth and development. More than 3,000 women have taken part in Caroline Center’s programs, which include employment readiness, skills training and career support services. Women are trained as certified/geriatric nursing assistants or pharmacy technicians.
The center has continued training throughout the current pandemic. The team there has transitioned to using an online learning platform.
Women enroll in 15-week sessions at Caroline Center. They must be Baltimore City residents who are at least 20. Applicants must have a high school diploma or have passed a General Education Development test. They must take an adult basic education test in reading and math, and must participate in an in-person interview.
Caroline Center is a recent Johns Hopkins School of Medicine grant recipient. The center also collaborates with health care systems, like Johns Hopkins, to secure internships and job placements for their graduates.
Liesen says the center caters to a diverse group of women who have a variety of life, education and work experiences.
“We meet the women where they are and try to help them get to the next level,” Liesen says.
Essential skills coordinator Yvonne Moten helps the women with everything including resumes, interviewing and critical thinking. She also trains them in customer service, communications and workplace dynamics.
“We work with the whole woman,” Moten says. “We have so many services to make sure that happens. We teach them to trust themselves and believe in themselves, but sometimes it takes a while for them to see it. They just don’t have confidence. We try to build their confidence and show them how smart and resilient they are. In the end, when they get that great job, it’s confirmation that they’ve grown.”
Caroline Center alumna Nirguna Curtis was hired to be a Johns Hopkins Hospital pharmacy technician in 2019.
“The Caroline Center doesn’t just give you a skill and throw you out to the wolves,” Curtis says. “They prepare you for the interview, help you with resumes and give you the stepping stones to take care of your family and be proud of what you’re doing.”
Now Curtis works in the Weinberg Outpatient Pharmacy and prepares chemotherapy drugs.
“I’m definitely doing more than I thought I would be doing,” she says. “I never thought I’d be working with lifesaving drugs. They definitely prepared me, and everything I do I can say I learned it at the Caroline Center.”
While the condensed coursework can be stressful, Curtis says the intense training is worth it.
“You have to stay focused and study,” she says. “If you need individual time, they give it to you. You just really have to make the time and be committed.”
Pharmacy technician Samira Singletary was recently hired at Johns Hopkins Hospital in April. She says Caroline Center taught her financial and emotional responsibility as well as how to be accountable and ethical.
“They teach you to be a professional. You learn so much and you meet so many new people who become your friends and mentors,” Singletary says. “There’s so much depth that comes with the program. They teach you to be suitable for the environment rather than trying to make the environment suited to you. It’s an education moment, a loving moment and a spiritual moment. Your life changes because of it.”