SPRINGFIELD — They just graduated from high school and will start college this fall, but these five teenagers are not kicking back and taking it easy this summer.
They are enrolled in an eight-week nurse’s aide certification program at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) that is tied to an internship program through Baystate Springfield Educational Partnership (BSEP).
Thanks to the STCC-BSEP partnership, Springfield residents Rumbila Abdullahi, Julia Hong, Genesis Medina, Anderson Nguyen, and Suraji Omoru are gaining the kind of experience they say will make them stand out as they work toward careers in healthcare.
BSEP connects students from Springfield public schools to programs such as the Certified Nurse Aide and CPR Certificate Program, a workforce-training course at STCC. BSEP pays for the STCC course, which includes class and lab work as well as hands-on clinical work at healthcare facilities. The BSEP program also offers students other hospital-based learning experiences, including a paid internship that builds off of their work in the CNA course.
Instructor Alyson Orgera-McNamara said the CNA course typically attracts students who seek entry-level positions in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities as certified nurse aides or home health aides. Many of her students enroll because they have a loved one who is ill and they discover how difficult it is to care for them.
“They’ve just been through that with their loved one, and they’re now wanting to help others,” she said, adding that it’s rare to have five students enrolled who aspire to become doctors or surgeons. “The maturity level that these five have is incredible for their age. They’re just so focused and wanting to go for it. That is so impressive to me. They’re very intelligent.”
Peter Blain, BSEP manager, said his organization has sent students to STCC for the past few years. The timing works well, he said, because students can start the CNA program in June after they graduate from high school. After they receive certification, they will work as CNAs as part of a 200-hour internship.
“We have a number of students who work while going through college,” Blain said, adding that he is impressed with the five students enrolled in the STCC course. “It’s a good group. They are all very motivated and interested. Our philosophy is, we provide the opportunity, and they make something of it. We emphasize for the student that if they’re passive, they won’t get much out of the program.”
The CNA course at STCC provides an invaluable opportunity for students dreaming of a healthcare career to work around patients, Blain added. “Any understanding of clinical or patient care is going to be a huge plus.”
Orgera-McNamara praised the Baystate program for helping to steer young people toward a health career — and opening their eyes to some of the tough jobs in the industry. The STCC CNA course trains healthcare workers to take on difficult activities such as bathing and feeding residents of a facility.
“This whole program is a hidden gem in our community. So many people are going to be served by their commitment to providing care. A good aide is worth their weight in platinum,” she said.
“A good aide can make or break your entire facility,” she went on. “They’re the front line. They’re constantly interacting with the family. They’re constantly interacting with the resident. It’s important that their behavior and their skill level is excellent. That’s what I ask for — excellence. I see their potential, and I push them.”
STCC will offer an evening version of the CNA course starting Aug 7. A day program will begin Oct. 10. For more information on these and other courses and to enroll online, visit www.stcc.edu/wt, call (413) 755-4225, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.