‘We have a responsibility to empower our community’: Terika Hughes on Career Academy


“I did not have a cookie-cutter approach to earning my degrees. A lot of life happened between when I started college and eight years later when I went back to finish.”

When you have worked in higher education for over fifteen years, like Terika Hughes, you hear about harsh realities from students regularly. She knows firsthand how life’s unrelenting nature can dramatically impact academic and career trajectories. 

As Director of Career Training at Southwest, Terika uses her experience as a starting point to relate to students who may feel alone in their battles. Her role in Southwest’s Career training program is a lifeline to many.

“I’ve been working in higher education a while, and I know that I have a gift of being able to talk and identify with people, helping them realize their strengths,” Hughes said.

This ability to relate and guide others towards their goals did not manifest from nothing. It comes in part from Terika’s own non-traditional journey as a student.

“I went to college immediately out of high school and began exploring my niches,” Hughes said. “Soon after, my father passed, and I left school.”

“I did not return until eight years later, and in that time, I earned two credentials, got married, and had children,” Hughes continued. “When I’m talking to students now, I can tell them I did not have a cookie-cutter approach to earning my degrees. A lot of life happened between when I started college and eight years later when I went back to finish.”

Now with an MBA and working towards her doctorate, Terika is the first to bring up the importance of the credentials she earned in her time away from school. 

“I’m able to share with students how my credentials helped me upskill and contribute more in the workforce,” Hughes said. “Having technical experience along with academic experience makes me a better worker.”

And that’s exactly what Southwest’s Career Training program is designed to do: foster a more vibrant, diverse, and equipped workforce. Their program offers Comp TIA A+ IT Certifications, Human Resources training, Contractor courses, Robotics training, Freight Driving training, Allied Health training, and Defensive Driving courses, among many others. Southwest’s career training has something for everyone, both online and in-person. 

They accomplish this through partnerships with local and national businesses and organizations like ours here at HireLocal. Southwest’s employer partners let them know what roles need to be filled, and Southwest helps provide quality and employees via their specified training.

Designed for ultimate flexibility, Southwest’s certification and training courses can be taken on an as-desired basis. Whether someone is enrolled as a Southwest student or not does not eliminate their eligibility.

“We are creating easy-to-access pathways that lead to better jobs for our students,” Hughes said. “Want to earn certifications while getting your two-year degree? Great! Want to come back after graduation to get a credential? Sure. Want to work for a few years first? No problem.”

“There are no barriers,” Hughes said. “There is nothing that is going to keep you from coming back to reskilling or upskilling. We have a responsibility as a community college to empower our community.”

At HireLocal, we cherish our partnership with Terika and Southwest’s Career Training initiative. Southwest facilitates soft skill training for us, helping prep our students for CNA courses and certification tests.

There are no limits to one’s potential when given access to the tools and encouragement necessary for success. Southwest helps provide them. 

To learn more about Southwest’s Career Training program, click here.

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‘I know I’m called to do this’: Naba Mambureh on chasing her dream

For Naba Mambureh, helping others is not just something she does for work. Helping others is the defining principle with which she lives her life. 

Growing up in The Gambia in West Africa, Naba saw empathy and care exemplified by medical workers in her community. Their selflessness instilled a passion for walking with others in difficult times and a love for healthcare.

“Helping others has been a part of who I am for a long time,” Naba said. “Growing up and seeing those in the medical field around me, I saw how important medical workers were in peoples’ most vulnerable moments. By the time I got to high school, I knew I wanted to become a nurse.”

In high school, Naba gravitated towards science classes, further fanning the flames of future medical pursuits. After high school, Naba and her sister, Fatou, immigrated to the U.S., settling in Memphis because of established familial ties.  

After adjusting to her new home, Naba enrolled in CNA courses in August 2020. While attending, she received an email from her program with information about HireLocal’s soft skills program. Itching to make connections and kickstart her career, Naba applied and was accepted.

“I learned important skills that went beyond healthcare,” Naba said. “They taught work ethics, digital citizenship, and common workplace practices. But most importantly, they helped me make connections with Methodist hospitals.”

Once Naba completed HireLocal’s soft skills program, we remained connected. While working at a Methodist Hospital as a CNA, Naba turned her sights to a nursing degree. She enrolled at The Tennessee College of Applied Technology

“When I applied for The Tennessee College of Applied Technology, HireLocal was there for me,” Naba said. “They reached out before my interview and helped me prep. Once you go through their courses, they don’t leave you. They are always there to help you tackle certain questions and situations.”

Energized from her experience with HireLocal, Naba encouraged her sister, Fatou, to enroll. Now, Fatou is also making strides in her medical career, working at the same hospital as Naba. 

This past month, Naba graduated from TCAT as a Licensed Practical Nurse. Although her coursework was laborious, she describes her shifts at Methodist on weekends as the fuel that kept her fire for the field burning. 

“Every time I hit that nursing floor, I get fired up. It’s like something is injected into me,” Naba said. “Having days away from school and living out what I’m called to do always reminded me during my classwork that I can succeed and must succeed because I love to do this.”

That thrill hasn’t left her. Even after graduation, each subsequent shift is just as exhilarating as the last. 

“Patient care is the most exciting and motivating thing for me,” Naba said. “We have patients where it’s no longer easy for them just to be human. When things like drinking water, eating, and other things they’re used to doing for themselves suddenly become hard, it has a profound effect.”

“Being the person in their life to have that empathy and compassion to dig in and care about their situation and help them through it is meaningful to me,” Nada continued. “When you’re genuine in your care, you can see the light on patients’ faces return when you help them.”

Now a licensed nurse, Naba is working towards securing a role as an LPN. She’s taking life step by step but enjoys every minute of her journey regardless of obstacles thrown her way. 

“Be patient with your patients, and take it moment by moment because they need that,” Nada said. “Even when I’m exhausted from a long shift, I still love it because I know this is my path. I am called to do this.”

‘Be the change you want to see’: Jamaia Chase’s CNA journey

Sometimes our callings find us before we realize it. Such is true for Jamaia Chase.

Jamaia graduated high school in 2020. A season of change that is already difficult for everyone was only complicated further by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Photo of Jamaia Chase

With campuses closed and class options limited to online, Jamaia followed in her mother’s footsteps and applied to Liberty University. There, she chose to study pre-law, pulling on her desire to help others and her community. At the same time, she was working as a caregiver.

“I had to become a caregiver at 18 years old because my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer,” Chase said. “It was the end of my junior year, and her cancer spread quickly, so I had to help my mom, aunt, and official caregivers with keeping up with medications, attending to her, and being intentional in spending time with her. Eventually, I applied for an official caregiver position because I had enough experience to do the job well.”

While keeping up and excelling at her pre-law studies, Jamaia began working with patients of all ages. At every turn, she allowed her experience of caring for her grandmother to guide her actions and attitude toward patients.

“While many people who cared for my grandmother were nice, there were also some who simply showed up to get the job done,” Chase said. “Some would come in, not speak, do their tasks, and then leave. I think the least a caregiver can do is provide a smiling face. I make sure I listen to my patients and take time to read with them, do puzzles, and play games.”

For two years, Jamaia balanced her caregiving work with her pre-law classes. Although it was never her initial goal, she realized that caregiving had become more than a job. It is her calling.

“I always wanted to help people, and I believed the law field was where I was meant to be,” Chase said. “But this year realized that I’m already living the lifestyle I want to live and making an impact right now in healthcare.”

After leaving her law program, she decided that the first thing she needed to do was become a certified nursing assistant. While looking for options, her close friend Layla was already going through CNA classes and recommended HireLocal.

Jamaia applied shortly after and joined their essential skills training course. 

“From day one, they have been on point and helped me pursue this career,” Chase said. “What has stuck out the most is their wisdom on change.”

“Most people think that change means doing something different,” Chase continued. “My instructor told us that change can also be adding something new to what we’re already doing rather than trying to fit somewhere we’re not meant to be.”

Jamaia is now charging full speed ahead into her CNA career through HireLocal’s program. After becoming a CNA, she wants to work via ShiftKey, a platform that allows users to bid on shifts they want to work on their own time. By building her schedule, Jamaia can go back to school to pursue her Nursing degree. 

Although she does not know what hospital or clinic she wants to work at after college, she knows she wants to remain in Memphis and sees impacting her hometown as a necessity, not an option.

“I know I want to stay in Memphis,” Chase said. “I’ve always been big on the mantra ‘be the change you want to see,’ and I feel like if you can’t make an impact in your hometown, how do you expect to make a change elsewhere?”

Jamaia did not expect to pursue this career, but it found her nonetheless. Through her determination and with the help of HireLocal, she is poised to thrive in the Memphis healthcare community.

For those considering a CNA career, Jamaia believes HireLocal will equip you for success.

“If you’re thinking about taking this leap, stop thinking and make the jump,” Chase said. “They go beyond preparing you for exams and teach you skills that you may not think you need at the moment but will realize later on are vital.”

We’re proud of the incredible journey Jamaia has traveled so far, and we know even greater things are in store for her.