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Pathways Out of Poverty

Sunday, March 20, 3:30 – 5:00 P.M.

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Lewinsville’s Faith and Public Policy Committee, Redeemer Lutheran Church of McLean, and the Tysons InterFaith coalition are sponsoring a series of virtual panel discussions on Pathways Out of Poverty in Northern Virginia. This next episode in the series explores how high school equivalency programs, soft skills training, and new opportunities for free Virginia community college tuition are helping vulnerable neighbors improve job preparedness and prospects for better livelihoods.

The event features Michelle Morgan, Administrator of the Fairfax County Adult High School; Paul Steiner, Adult and Community Education Administrator for Fairfax County Public Schools; Laura Siko, Director of Enrollment Management and G3 Project Manager at NOVA’s Loudoun campus; and Joan Wise, Director of Self Sufficiency Services at Cornerstones of Reston. James Foster, a member of the Lewinsville congregation, will moderate the panel discussion.

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About the event. In this third event of the Pathways series, we examine the role of job preparedness training in removing barriers facing the poor as they seek out better livelihoods. Michelle Morgan and Paul Steiner will describe FCPS efforts to help adult students obtain high school equivalency credentials. Laura Siko will describe NOVA’s new Virginia G3 (Get trained. Get a job. Give back.) scholarships program for low- and moderate-income Virginians seeking jobs in high-demand fields. Joan Wise will share how Cornerstone’s soft skills training is helping convert the possibility of a better job into a reality. James Foster, who is currently in academic administration at the George Washington University, will moderate the discussion and Q&A.

About the Panelists:

Dr. Michelle Morgan is the Administrator of the Fairfax County Adult High School (FCAHS), a unique school for adults 18 and older that is part of the Fairfax County Public School system. The mission of FCAHS is to provide an opportunity for adult learners to identify their learning needs and to accomplish their goal of obtaining a high school credential.

Dr. Morgan of is a career educator. She began her career as a teacher in Florida. She taught reading, language arts, and journalism. She served as a reading specialist, dean of students, and an assistant principal at both a middle and high school, also in Florida. She returned home to Virginia and was a middle and high school principal for ten years. Dr. Morgan began her career with FCPS in 2015 and was appointed the FCAHS administrator in January 2020. Throughout her leadership roles, Dr. Morgan has addressed school improvement by focusing on the overall success of all students and leading her teams to examine gaps among subgroups within school practices and outcomes. Dr. Morgan holds a B.A. from Florida International University, an M.A. from Nova Southeastern University, and a Doctor of Education from Virginia Tech.

Paul Steiner currently serves as the Administrator for Adult and Community Education for Fairfax County Public Schools.  Mr. Steiner previously served as a Career and Technical Education Administrator in Manassas and taught construction and carpentry for 12 years in Prince William County.  Mr. Steiner’s focus and passion is workforce development by connecting individuals with educational opportunities that will lead to advancement. 

Dr. Laura Siko is the Director of Enrollment Management for Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun Campus (NOVA) and has also served as interim G3 Project Manager since July 2021. As Director of Enrollment Management, she works with academic divisions, student services and community relations to recruit and retain students for the college. In her latter role, she manages NOVA’s G3 Scholarship program, which makes it possible for Virginians with low or modest income to pursue jobs in high-demand fields, such as healthcare, information technology, manufacturing, and skilled trades, with “stackable” credentials on a timeline that works for them. The era of G3 is an exciting time for the Commonwealth, and the G3 team at NOVA is working hard to communicate, onboard, and advise students about this fantastic grant opportunity.

Dr. Siko has 19 years of experience in the community college field, having worked as an academic advisor at a rural college in Pennsylvania prior to her administrative role at NOVA. She holds a B.S. from Penn State (Schuylkill), a Master of Education from Penn State (The Capital College), and a Ph.D. in Education from George Mason.

Joan Wise is Director of Self-Sufficiency Services at Cornerstones, a Reston, VA nonprofit that was established by area religious organizations to help improve the well-being of the area’s low and moderate income individuals and families. For the past ten years, Joan has created and administered programs to assist economically vulnerable families attain stability and self-sufficiency through education, employment, and financial literacy. She worked with Katrina evacuees in a program that successfully housed 35 families. Through the Partnership for Permanent Housing (PPH) pilot program, she helped previously homeless families purchase homes, become debt free and send their children to college, for which she received the Friends of Housing and Community Development award. She partnered with T.M. Wealth Management to develop the Cornerstones’ Financial Literacy program and developed the Adult Education & Training program as well as other programs related to self-sufficiency.

In her current role, Joan wrote a 30-hour, copyrighted, employment-readiness curriculum entitled Job S.M.A.R.T. (Shared, Motivational, and Achievement Readiness Training), which teaches the “soft skills” clients need, such as goal-setting, creating an employment/education plan, developing an “elevator speech”, and composing a resume, to complement the “hard skills” such as computer literacy, ESL, GED, vocational training, certifications, or additional college training. The curriculum has been shared through the Fairfax County Workforce Collaborative with other northern Virginia nonprofits with a goal of providing equitable workforce training throughout the county. It is part of Cornerstones’ Pathway to Sustainable Employment program, which is designed to fill a gap in workforce development and job training programs for job seekers who are disadvantaged due to education or skill deficits.

About the Series. eveloped by Lewinsville’s Faith and Public Policy Committee, Pathways out of Poverty in Northern Virginia builds on the knowledge that affluent Northern Virginia is also home to poorer residents who face multiple obstacles to improving their livelihoods. The goal of the series is to explore policies, programs, and individual actions that can help them remove the challenges they face.