GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Futures for Frontliners is one of the programs Michigan is using to help its essential workers find new job opportunities after the pandemic. It provides financial help for their upcoming college semesters.

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the state program about 11 months ago, she said it could lead to technical certificates, associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees for hospital and nursing home workers, grocery store employees, child care workers, those manufacturing personal protection equipment, first responders, sanitation workers, and those delivering supplies.

Since then, there have been thousands of applications at community colleges in West Michigan. From people who were laid off from their previous jobs to those wanting more out of life, Futures for Frontliners seems like it is making a difference.

“I went to the pediatrician office with my son and he said, ‘My mom’s going to be a nurse!'” said Staci Redmon, a nursing student at Muskegon Community College. “And I’m like, ‘I’m just going to school. I’m not a nurse yet!'”

Returning to school is not easy, and everyone has to find their own motivation.

“It’s scary doing something new that you’ve never done,” she said. “So that part of it’s really challenging for me. Like, am I going to be successful?”

Futures for Frontliners helps cover some of the costs of community college, which was enough for 120,000 people throughout the state to apply.

“I would have had to work and probably work overtime because that’s what I’ve had to do and I would have missed out on seeing my kids,” said Redmon. “It would have been asking a lot from my family.”

While some look to family for inspiration, the motivation for others was more introspective.

“After I had made the decision to leave and then was given the opportunity to stay, it kind of reinvigorated a sense of lifetime learning in me,” said Annah Johnson, a business student at Grand Rapids Community College.

She had been working in a grocery store, saving up her money when this opportunity popped up.

“I think it is a tremendous push toward promoting education for people of all ages, all backgrounds, and really anyone who needs a little bit of a financial push to get there,” Johnson said.

It is opening doors for these two students, and possibly future generations.

“You know what, they’re looking at me and I’m setting the example for them, too,” said Redmon. “So, it just makes it even better. Makes me more determined to do it.”