Top marks for June apprentice cohort

Graduation photo of seven students in the apprenticeship program June 6, 2024.

Seven students graduated from Care Assistants to Nurse Aides during a ceremony June 6, 2024, at the EEE Center. The students — overall — had top marks in their classwork and completing clinical skills labs throughout their experience in Virginia Health Services’ earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program

The students spent nearly six weeks in the classroom and in clinical skills labs at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hampton. They learned 22 skills, took 14 tests and got hands-on experience working with patients. The apprenticeship program also covers the cost of the state certification exam to be CNAs, which they’ll take after going through review courses.

Friends, family members and VHS team members from corporate and Coliseum attended the graduation ceremony. Instructor Nora Gillespie, RN, and Director of Education Princess Henderson, BSN, RN, gave remarks as each graduate received their certificates, and they received updated name badges now that they are Nurse Aides.

The graduates before the ceremony June 6, 2024, at the EEE Center. They will join the teams at Coliseum and The Newport.

The graduates – Diamond Anthony, Jenny Broadsword, Ken Claiborne, Amauri Hicks, Essence Jones, Dania Manago and Ja’Mya Starks – will join the teams at Coliseum and The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers.

“You should be proud of the teamwork and this family you all created. You’ll be friends for a long time,” Princess said during the ceremony.

Coliseum Administrator Dudley Haas and Director of Nursing Yolanda Carnegie-Chambers cheered on the graduates. They supported the students through their apprenticeship and will have six of the seven on their team.

VHS Vice President of Operations Don Lundin and Vice President of Nursing Rebecca Boyd also shared remarks with the class. Don called the graduates who will move into CNA roles “the backbone of what we do.”

“This is a hard job. We want to support you through your professional journey,” Rebecca said. “We want to help you grow and flourish.”

The graduates

Princess said this class showed tremendous growth and bonded together to work as a team to make sure everyone got to the finish line. She and Nora showered the graduates with praise for their heart, compassion and ability to work together as a team.

Nora shared Diamond picked up everything right away. “She was eager to jump into the CNA world. She loved her residents,” Princess said.

Ken Claiborne “was like everybody’s brother. He looked out for the class,” Nora said. Princess says he is a caring person and built rapport with his residents at Coliseum.

He and Essence received certificates from Princess for excelling in clinical skills.

Essence came to class with experience in home health care, but felt she needed the training the apprentice program provides. “We’re lucky to have her on the team,” Princess said.

Amauri, the salutatorian, aspires to be a physician assistant. She is a student at Hampton University, and feels more prepared for the medical program having gone through the training.

Dania received the Champion Award from Princess, which recognizes the most improved in the class.

“She grew personally and professionally,” Princess said. “She fell in love with caring for people.”

Ja’Mya — affectionately called Jam — loved her residents and “is the type of person we want to work for VHS,” Princess said. She is in the nursing program at Norfolk State University and feels she learned so much more in the apprentice program.

“You have the strength that will carry you through to a phenomenal career,” Nora said.


Valedictorian Jenny Broadsword came into the class with healthcare experience. She excelled in class and in clinicals, Princess said. Nora added she was good at helping her classmates get through learning the skills needed to be a successful CNA.

Valedictorian Jenny Broadsword and Director of Education Princess Henderson.

In her valedictorian address, Jenny showered compliments on Nora and Princess.

“Today marks the start of a new journey. Six weeks ago we embarked on a new path with VHS. We entered this building as nervous, excited and as strangers. Today we exit as we began, with a newfound appreciation for our role as caregivers and with new friendships,” Jenny said.

“Along the way, we were guided by our amazing instructors who never hesitated to explain, demonstrate and respond to our requests. Nora and Princess, thank you for instilling in us seriousness and dignity of the caregiver. …

“With Miss Nora in our ears and Princess holding our hands, we navigated through the highs and the lows of clinicals. We walked in with our heads held high … we have gained invaluable knowledge of what it means to be a caring caregiver. As we leave here today, one thought continues to ring in our ear, ‘do it with heart and do it right’.”

Valedictorian Jenny Broadsword delivers her remarks to her peers.

Upcoming classes

The graduates will participate in review sessions before taking their state certification exams.

Applications are closed for the next class, which starts June 24 at the EEE Center. Students of the Gloucester class graduate July 9 at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Sessions are scheduled throughout the year at both locations, and applications typically open six weeks in advance of the class start date.

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