Four apprentices graduate from Walter Reed program

Gloucester apprentice class graduates Feb. 29, 2024.

Virginia Health Services welcomed four new graduates from the apprentice program to its team following a ceremony Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Gloucester.

The students graduated from Care Assistants to Nurse Aides under the earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program, which also covers the cost of the state certification exam to be a CNA. The graduates were the first class to graduate this year from the Gloucester program and will continue to work at Walter Reed.

The program returned to hosting classes and skills lab at Walter Reed following a hiatus the past couple of years. Classes also are offered on the Peninsula at the Employment, Education and Enrichment (EEE) Center in Newport News, with skills labs at James River and Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers.

Students spend nearly six weeks in the classroom, taking 14 tests, and in the clinical skills lab learning 22 skills to graduate. The course provides the foundation to be a CNA and students are instructed it is a “stepping stone” to nursing or other career paths in healthcare.

Vice President of Operations Don Lundin congratulates the apprentice program graduates at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

It was the first class at Gloucester for VHS training and education coordinator Tracy Williams, MSN, BSN, RN. She was assisted by longtime VHS instructor Nora Gillespie, RN, and Director of Education Princess Henderson, BSN, RN, who also lead the Peninsula program.

Vice President of Operations Don Lundin said in opening remarks that VHS is proud of the graduates, and the team looks forward to supporting their journey in healthcare.

Three of the graduates were Care Assistants at Walter Reed previous to joining the class. The fourth “fit right into the puzzle,” Tracy said.

Lana Ketch, Director of Nursing at Walter Reed, shared the team was proud of them and happy they are remaining at the facility.

“I’ve heard about the care you’ve given, the compassion you’ve shown. Don’t ever stop doing that,” she said. “When you leave here at the end of the day, if you’ve made one resident smile, it was a good day. You did your job well.”

The graduates

Tracy said the class was the first taught on her own – she was the Infection Preventionist nurse at Walter Reed prior to joining the VHS education team.

“I thoroughly enjoyed this class,” she said.

Zoe Banks had some experience in a prior class before graduating Thursday. She knew her skills, Tracy said, and did an excellent job. She received a clinical skills superlative award from her instructor.

Nora said Zoe “thrived in this environment. I watched you grow in your abilities and in as a person, and your confidence just blossomed.”

Donna Collins “nailed it,” Nora said. Donna and Tracy had worked together previously and Tracy said she knew her student would excel in the class. She received the Champion Award from Tracy for showing the most growth throughout the course of the class.

Salutatorian D’Andra Wilson was nervous to start, Nora said, “but you were up to the task. You exceeded your expectations and were determined.”

Tracy called D’Andra – known as “D” – her long-lost twin. “She was great in the skills lab and on the floor. She nailed it.”

Valedictorian Marquise Williams was a good student, Nora said. “He was all in. It’s a stepping stone from CA, and he was in it to win it. You loved it. There’s a path for you in healthcare here.”

The residents loved him, Tracy said.

He shared a few remarks with his classmates.

“It was a good class. I loved working with my people. I enjoyed watching you grow as people and as nurses. Keep doing what you do; I look forward to working with you guys,” Marquise said.

Join our team

Applications for the next Gloucester class are open at The class is slated for April 22-May 30. Two others will be offered July 22-August 29 and October 21-December 2.

Peninsula class applications for the April 29-June 6 class will open in mid-March. Look for the application link at


Post Categories

Skip to content