Carilion Clinic receives $1 million gift to help employees advance their careers

The YES program will launch later this year

ROANOKE, Va. – A new program is turning Carilion Clinic into a YES man — literally.

A $1 million gift from an anonymous donor couple will help the health system’s YES (Your Efforts, Supported) program for employees.

The program is for Carilion employees with at least one year of service.

“If you come on as an LPN but you want to be an RN, or you come on as an environmental service worker but you want to be a respiratory therapist, we are going to help you get enrolled in a program. It could be a certification program, an associate degree or bachelor’s degree,” explained Carilion Clinic’s Executive Vice President, Jeanne Armentrout.

Carilion’s human resources team was developing the YES Program late last year when the donors approached the health system with an idea to help individuals improve their education, their careers and their financial health. Carilion’s plans and the donors’ ideas were a perfect match.

Dr. Nathaniel Bishop is the Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, and says he’s seen many talented and driven Carilion employees who want more but just need opportunity.

The program goes even further than schooling and employment.

“We’re going to look at individual barriers too,” said Armentrout. “So, if someone needs childcare or a laptop or other items to help them get there, we are going to fund those as well.”

YES will launch later this year.

“It fits in with our mission to improve the health of the communities we serve all across Southwest Virginia,” said Bishop.

The anonymous gift will be used to establish The John Cooker Endowment Fund, so named at the donors’ request, which will reimburse Carilion for costs associated with supporting African-American employees who are enrolled in the program.

The donors were motivated to make the gift upon learning that their forebears profited from the labor of enslaved African-Americans. “John Cooker” was the name that the donor’s grandfather had given to the Black man who served his family when the grandfather was a young boy. While the family had a close relationship with Cooker, in keeping with the segregated norms of the time, he was never viewed as an equal.

The donors chose to name the scholarship program to both honor Cooker and recognize his potential had times been different.

The YES program will be open to all eligible entry-level employees regardless of their race or ethnicity or any other characteristic when it launches later this year. “I’m particularly touched by these donors’ commitment to providing a firm foundation for our African American colleagues,” Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Dr. Nathaniel L. Bishop said. “And I’m hopeful many will benefit from the program.”

About the Author:

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors 10 News at 6 and 11 on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.