Seven apprentices graduated from Care Assistants to Nurse Aides on Friday in Styron Square in Port Warwick. They were surrounded by enthusiastic family members and friends who treated the group like rockstars, taking photos, holding up handmade signs and cheering.
The graduates were instructed by Nora Gillespie for classwork at the Education Center and in clinical skills with Director of Education Princess Henderson at James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program includes coursework, daily tests and learning 22 clinical skills.
“I’m proud of this professional group of women,” Nora said at Friday’s ceremony. Princess added, “These women really built a sisterhood. They had each other’s’ backs.”
The group was welcomed by VHS Vice President of Nursing Rebecca Boyd.
“We’re proud they chose us as part of their career and they are starting it here,” she said.
The group will work in four of Virginia Health Services’ nursing and rehabilitation centers at Coliseum, James River, Northampton and York.
Nora and Princess sang the praises of the graduates during the ceremony.
The class was relieved Tahmiyia Allison held off on giving birth until after graduation. “She gave 100% and never used being pregnant as an excuse,” Nora said.
Zoe Briggs, the salutatorian, is familiar with VHS. Her mother works in billing with VHS Pharmacy. “She has compassion and heart in what she does,” Nora said of Zoe.
Cyerra Hunter “loves her patients,” Princess said. “She wants them to feel good about themselves.”
Cierra Jackson, who earned a superlative award for hard work, was “always ready early,” Princess said. “She was focus, attentive and got it done.”
“Her warmth flows out of her,” Nora said of Jazmine Martin. “When she told me why she was here, it was, ‘I want to make someone’s life better.’ ”
Andrianna Phillips “brought a wealth of knowledge to these girls. She will be a great CNA for VHS and a great nurse,” Princess said.
Valedictorian Anjil Hicks just graduated from high school. Her perfect attendance edged out Zoe for the top honor. “She cares about those patients,” Princess said.
During her remarks, Anjil said, “as Nora said, our goal was for all of us to get across the finish line – and we did!”
There were a lot of hugs and tears during the ceremony as new name badges and certificates were awarded.
“Princess steered you all right,” Nora told the class.
Join the program
Virginia Health Services’ earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program also covers the cost of the certification exam for the graduates to be Certified Nurse Aides (CNAs). The next class is scheduled to start Sept. 19.
Students are employed by Virginia Health Services from Day 1. There is a 12-month commitment to remain employed by VHS when joining the program.
Classes begin about every six weeks. To apply visit vahs.com/careers and look for the “Care Assistant” listing.