Kareem Jenkins: Pandemic hiatus leads to new career direction

Having his work hours drastically reduced due to the pandemic led Kareem Jenkins to take a serious look at what he wanted to do with his life.

The Manassas resident had been working two part-time jobs before the pandemic struck – as a pizza delivery driver and as a school janitor. When the pandemic closed down schools, Jenkins was out of the janitorial job for months. His delivery job racked up miles on his car.

After graduating from high school, Jenkins, now 23, wasn’t really ready for college, but still enrolled in another community college in Virginia.

“Being 18, 19, I didn’t take school that seriously,” he said. “Fast forward to last year, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.

“I was really motivated to make a career change because I didn’t want to be put in that vulnerable position the pandemic put me in again. I needed to start taking life a lot more seriously.”

The son of a registered nurse, Jenkins enrolled in Laurel Ridge Workforce Solutions’ certified clinical medical assistant program. He took the accelerated program, completing it in just three months. Jenkins came to the Middletown Campus for classes three days a week.

“I’ve always wanted to get my foot in the door with health care,” Jenkins said. “I just didn’t know what specifically, so I decided to try this out and I really enjoyed it.”

Thanks to the FastForward program and additional funding, Jenkins, who graduated in May, didn’t have to pay any money out of pocket for the medical assistant course.

His favorite aspects of the program were drawing blood, studying medical terminology, and learning CPR. He praised Workforce Solutions allied health program lead Janet Mayes.

“She was really nice, very patient,” Jenkins said. “She makes everything super-detailed and was very thorough.”

Jenkins plans to return to school to become a registered nurse and hopes to be accepted into LFCC’s highly-regarded nursing program. He is now taking prerequisite classes at Laurel Ridge and working at Lifetime Family Medicine in Gainesville along with fellow CMA graduate Amy Russo.

“It’s pretty cool,” Jenkins said of his new job. “I really like it.”

Certified clinical medical assistants’ job duties can include taking patients’ vital signs and history, giving injections, sterilizing medical equipment, drawing blood, removing stitches, assisting doctors with exams and minor surgeries, and changing bandages.

Learn more about the medical assistant program at laurelridgeworkforce.com/cma. For more about the FastForward program, go to laurelridgeworkforce.com/fastforward.