C3 Fellow Profile: Aaron Kaase

Aaron Kaase has known his share of disappointment and frustration.  Nearly two years out of a solid footing in the workforce at age 36, he credits the Central Corridor College (C3) Fellowship program for his dramatic turn of fortune.

“When the economic downturn came in 2008, I decided to go back to school,” Aaron recalled.  “But it wasn’t easy.  The transition from work to school was really stressful and disenchanting.”  He first applied for a scholarship at another local college, but was turned down.  Eventually, he made his way to Saint Paul College, and found an open door there.

Aaron’s father urged him to consider the health care field as a promising career change. He decided to look at the academic programs available that combined Healthcare and IT at Saint Paul College.  For Aaron, it was critical to find a way for his time at school to be productively connected to finding a good job. 

Career NavigationC3 Fellow, Aaron Kaase

“Making contact with a career navigator at Saint Paul College was very, very helpful,” he reflected.  “My first two semesters at Saint Paul College were so much better because I connected with faculty who cared about me finding a career.”  Career counselor and C3 Fellowship program coordinator Brian Mogren became Aaron’s inspiration and guide to a future in IT and healthcare. 

“Brian told me that the C3 Fellowship was really something to consider,” Aaron recalled.  “He had a big impact on me.  Brian talks and acts fast, but he is the most genuine, empathetic and positive person -- few people I know are as positive.” 

The C3 Fellowship program is one key strategy for the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership to pursue its goal of hiring more local residents, especially in health care careers.  The Partnership hopes to boost the percentage of anchor employer workforce from Central Corridor zip codes by five points to 18% in five years. 

A Fellowship with Privileges

Aaron applied and was accepted as a C3 Fellow, and soon he discovered that this fellowship would greatly exceed his expectations.  Almost immediately, he was able to take advantage of many opportunities he did not envision, and was overwhelmed with happiness at his change in fortune.  “We were exposed to so many employers,” he recalled.  “And there were even people who were very busy working at the hospitals, but they were willing to look at the minute details on your resume and give you feedback.” Aaron found with time that the mentoring and preparation from the C3 Fellows program gave him the confidence he needed to network and interact with healthcare employers. 

For Aaron, being a C3 Fellow provided privileges and opportunities that he believes he never would have found otherwise.  “The high level of personal attention from my career counselors and faculty, the interaction with healthcare providers on tours of their facilities, detailed interviewing skill preparation, networking opportunities, and ultimately the chance to apply for and get a good part time job,” Aaron recounted, “these things were all made possible for me because I was a C3 Fellow.”

Praise for the Green Line and Partnership

A resident of St. Paul and the Midway area since 1999, Aaron describes a certain parallel with his own career fortunes and the opening of the Green Line.  “The Central Corridor area used to be tired, gritty and disheveled, and for a long time, I didn’t see that changing,” Aaron mused.  “I was pretty pessimistic about University Avenue, and figured the Green Line would be just the number 16 bus on tracks.” 

He now sees the Green Line bringing new vitality, and Aaron realizes that there may be a connection.  “You can see now that there was this shared need,” he explained.  “Healthcare employers needed employees and the Green Line was going to take the people living nearby to their jobs.”  Realizing that he is now part of an effort of colleges and hospitals to build on the investment in the Green Line to promote economic prosperity, he sees his C3 Fellowship with even more enthusiasm.  “That’s fantastic! What an amazing concept, right?” he said.  “It’s absolutely awesome.”  Even his pessimism about University Avenue has disappeared.  “I was wrong.  You can see all kinds of new signs of life along University Avenue,” he noted.  “Heck, the Turf Club has remodeled!” 

Currently employed in Health Information Technology (HIT), Aaron is taking additional math classes and working on professional certification at the same time.  He still finds time to keep in contact with his previous networking connections and enjoys the idea of more people working near the Green Line corridor.  His advice for Saint Paul College students thinking about a health care career?  “Apply to become a C3 Fellow!” he said.  “Just do it, and take advantage of all the privileges this fellowship brings.”

More Background: Read Jay Walljasper’s story in MinnPost, “How innovative programs are opening pathways to good health-care jobs for inner-city youth”.