Left to Right: Beckman Mall (Beloit), House on the Rock (Spring Green) & Grange Mall (Evansville) Left to Right: Boscobel Heritage Museum, Angel Museum in Beloit, Don Q Inn in Dodgeville Left to Right: Beloit Snappers, Brodhead Historical Museum, Zonta Park & Municipal Building in Beloit Left to Right: Badger Mine & Museum in Shullsburg, Ten Eyck Apple Barn in Brodhead, Milton House in Milton Left to Right: Old Water Tower in Clinton, Riverside Park in Beloit, Thresheree in Edgerton Left to Right: Lake Montesian in Monticello, Cassville Ferry, The Point in Potosi

From Not Speaking English to Earning Her Degree

When 18-year-old Jana Ahles came to the United States from the Czech Republic in 1996, following the ‘Velvet Revolution,’ she literally couldn’t speak a word of English. Now 20 years later at age 39, she recently earned her associate degree in nursing from Blackhawk Technical College and will shortly be starting at Beloit Memorial Hospital. The journey, however, was anything but easy.

Following her earning of her high school diploma, Jana worked for Blackhawk Transport, starting in May of 2003. She worked there almost nine years when she, along with many others, were laid off. “I loved working there,” Jana said. “My son was just born and I was back to work for one month when the layoff was announced. I was very depressed.”

She spoke with her husband, David, about whether she should look for another job or explore other options. “He suggested I go to the Job Center, which I did. I spoke with Cyndi Pohl [her WIOA Career Specialist] about my options, and I decided returning to school was in my and my family’s best interests,” she explained.

Cyndi was able to help Jana with Dislocated Worker funding. “I looked at the programs available at BTC and was amazed at the choices,” Jana said. “I decided nursing was the field for me.”

But getting into the program necessitated patience. Entering in the fall of 2011, it took four-and-a-half years, as she had to complete her general education classes first. She then was on the waiting list for a half year before getting into the clinical portion. “I think I was fairly fortunate because in the past I understand the waiting list was much longer,” Jana said.

She found the classes challenging, but she loved them all, especially the more difficult ones, which helped change her mind. “I absorbed every class…it was so rewarding,” she added. Jana had a 4.0 Grade Point Average during her generals and finished the entire program with a 3.8 GPA, graduating December 17, 2015.

She interviewed at Beloit Memorial Hospital and was hired immediately, even before sitting for her RN licensure, which she will do in January or February.

“My experience with Cyndi and the program was amazing,” Jana said. Certainly the funding to help with tuition, books and other expenses was critical, Jana said, but the ancillary support was as critical, if not more. “Cyndi was a very important person in my life,” Jana said. “I’d always wanted to go back to school, and she helped me a lot. We did it together. She gave me a second chance in life, and now I can help others,” she added.

“Jana is perfect for her new career,” Cyndi said. “She is very compassionate as well as a true professional. I know she’ll be very successful.”

Jana (pronounced yah’ nuh, her maiden name being Fojtikova) still has family back in the Czech Republic as well as Slovakia and Austria. She has not yet been able to go back to see them. She came from Ostrava, an industrial town of about 300,000.

“I love challenges,” Jana said, and she has proven that she can handle them extremely well. She’s come a long way in her life, not just mileage-wise, but in her outlook, perseverance and attitude. We congratulate Jana on her hard-earned success.

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Jana Ahles

Jana Ahles


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“I looked at the programs available at BTC and was amazed at the choices. I decided nursing was the field for me.”
---Jana Ahles

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