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Phoenix College and Rio Salado College’s Partnership to Upskill English Language Learners and GED® Students into Allied Health Careers is Featured by the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity

photo of a medical assisting student looking at a computer. Rio Salado College and Phoenix college logos. photo of Rio Salado College student Vera Batista photo of Rio Salado student Rotasha Bellamy

Phoenix College and Rio Salado College’s Partnership to Upskill English Language Learners and GED® Students into Allied Health Careers is Featured by the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity

Through an exclusive partnership between Rio Salado and Phoenix College that started in March, adult education students have access to training as a Medical Administrative Assistant. The Adult Education coenrollment program allows students to receive valuable career training at the same time they are working toward their high school equivalency or learning English. This innovative partnership was featured in a national publication by the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity.

Speaking about the Rio Salado and Phoenix College partnership that provides a career training on-ramp for adult education students taking non-credit programming, Rio Salado President Kate Smith noted, “We are excited for this new pathway that will open up meaningful opportunities for our Adult Education students. With this new partnership, students will gain requisite industry skills while preparing for a fulfilling career. This aligns directly with our mission to anticipate the needs of our students and support them as they work toward long-term goals. I am appreciative to Phoenix College for partnering to develop this student-centric initiative."

“This partnership exemplifies the power of collaboration,” said Phoenix College Interim President Dr. Clyne Namuo. “Together we were able to meet the evolving needs of our community and bring new training opportunities to our learners in real time in response to the industry needs. The synergy we have been able to create by leveraging innovative practices as well as a tradition of educational excellence has been extraordinary. For more than 100 years, Phoenix College has been focused on equitable access for learners. This partnership will have a profound impact as we address the growing demand for qualified professionals in our community. I am excited to see this program grow and to observe the achievements of our incredible students.”

The first cohort of Rio Salado adult education students coenrolled in Phoenix College’s Medical Administrative Assisting (MAA) Certificate of Completion (CCL) program are set to earn their credentials in December 2021. Upon completion of the MAA CCL, students have the opportunity to stack credentials to improve their qualifications and advance themselves in the field as they advance to Phoenix College’s Medical Assisting (MA) CCL program in January 2022. 

A second cohort of students from Rio Salado’s Adult Education program started on the pathway to career advancement through Phoenix College's MAA CCL program in August. Students coenrolled in the partnership pathway at Rio Salado and Phoenix College may also access ARIZONA@WORK services, under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, to support their tuition, fees, and other wraparound support service needs. All partners are committed to student support and success.

One of these students is Vera Batista Cespedes, an English language learner at Rio Salado who coenrolled with Phoenix College to earn a Medical Administrative Assisting certificate. "I enrolled in the MAA program because I think it is a great opportunity and I am passionate about medicine," Batista Cespedes said. "In Cuba, I was an X-ray technician and I want to continue my studies in that branch of medicine." 

Batista Cespedes plans to continue her educational journey into the world of medicine once she finishes her MAA program this semester. “I am interested in continuing my studies in the field of radiology and orthopedics,” she said.

Another cohort student is Rio Salado High School Equivalency (HSE) graduate Rotasha Bellamy, who celebrated earning her HSE diploma by enrolling in the Medical Administrative Assisting program at Phoenix College. 

“Rio Salado helped me prepare for the future by giving me the skills and knowledge to continue my education,” she said.

For Rotasha, her HSE graduation meant a personal goal was met, and a better future in the medical field awaits thanks to the partnership between Rio Salado and Phoenix College.

Rio Salado College is the largest provider of adult education courses in Arizona and is a three-time winner of the Adult Education Program of the Year award from the Arizona Department of Education. Phoenix College was recently identified as one of the most affordable educational institutions in the country to earn a medical assistant certificate.

The Medical Assisting Program at Phoenix College is a true stackable workforce program with multiple micro and professional credentials. The first semester of the program, Medical Administrative Assisting, is 18 credits and fully online. At the completion of the first semester, students can earn their first industry credential, Certified Medical Administrative Specialist (CMAS), and find entry-level employment in the industry.

The next cohort will begin in January 2022. Students interested in starting this program should contact Rio Salado’s Adult Education department at 480.517.8110 or by email at For more details, visit  Students interested in the Medical Assisting Program can join one of the Phoenix College Medical Assisting program information sessions.

Students who wish to continue in the Phoenix College Medical Assisting Program complete 24 additional credits for their clinical hybrid lab classes. At the completion of these classes, students earn their second Certificate from Phoenix College and are then prepared for their second industry credential, Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) or Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) Medical Assisting. Students have further opportunities to earn their Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree through Phoenix College with direct transfer to Northern Arizona University to then earn their Bachelor of Health Science with an emphasis in Medical Assisting.

Additional information about this partnership can be accessed at Rio News, past Maricopan articles, or the partnership press release.

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