SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. – A small but dedicated group of 10 South Kingstown High School students reached an important milestone June 5 when they graduated from the school’s certified nursing assistant program.
The occasion comes at a time when medical professionals are in increased need, and higher risk, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ceremony took place online because of restrictions related to the pandemic.
“It’s been a long time for our students to get to where they are today,” science teacher Michael Lobdell said.
It began with several prerequisite courses for the students while they were undergraduates, and continued with CNA classes taught by instructor Meghan Amaral.
“We’re so proud of all the students because they’ve persevered to overcome many obstacles to get to this point in their education,” Lobdell said. “Their hard work, tenacity and dedication to their end goals are the reasons they are in a position to make the next big step.”
Although the students took part in the graduation ceremony, it’s not quite the last step to becoming a CNA. Each still needs to pass a certification exam in order to be licensed.
The students are Sophia Arnone, Jake Booth, Emma Brouillette, Alexa Clegg, Alexa Gaudette, Raven Colbert, Alyssa Howard, Sha-Lese Morales, Alyssa Penoyer and Isabella Vacca.
CNA student Alexa Clegg, a junior, said she’s learned a lot through taking the program.
“We have gotten hands-on experience on what it’s like to be a CNA at a nursing home,” she said. “We’ve also been given a lot of time to learn the material, which is nice because we’ve been able to ask a lot of questions.”
The program has helped Clegg in her career goals.
“It’s shown me what it’s like to work in the medical field,” she said.
Graduate Alexa Gaudette, a senior, said the course combines classroom and lab work with experience at nursing homes.
“Overall the class was really fun and the teachers were really supportive,” Gaudette said. She wants to go into nursing, she said, and she encouraged other students to enter the program if they are interested in the medical field.
The course is a major commitment and it’s not one most high school students aspire to achieve, Principal Chip McGair said. When he was STEM director, McGair was instrumental in bringing the CNA program and other CTE programs to the school.
“This is what we were looking for, to see so many students complete this program,” he said. “Congratulations to all of you, it’s a ton of work and you should be proud.”
South Kingstown High School CTE Coordinator Scott Rollins said the students in the new CNA program “have set the bar tremendously high for future students in the program.”
Working with Lobdell on the program are Amaral and SKHS Health and Physical Educator Karen Amber.
“This is (Amaral’s) first year as CNA instructor, and she has displayed incredibly high levels of professionalism, knowledge and poise. She’s a truly dedicated person,” Lobdell said.
South Kingstown is one of only a few schools in the state with a CNA development program. The school has partnered with American Safety Programs and Training Inc. to offer the courses.
“I just want to say how proud I am of these students,” American Safety Program Administrator Merry Jayne Slingsby said. “This is such a challenging program to begin with, and on top of that with the COVID restrictions and having to learn virtually, we’ve had to alter and change and be flexible almost on a daily basis with what the R.I. Department of Health would allow us to do or not do. All of the students have risen to any challenge that was thrown their way.”
Slingsby said the students would do further skills refreshing classes before taking the license exam at the American Safety campus in Providence.