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NFA North Certified Nurse Aide Program and Partnerships Highlighted
Did you read about our Certified Nursing Program this weekend? The Newburgh School District is proud of our strong partnership with prestigious community organizations Newburgh Armory Unity Center, Montefiore St. Luke's Cornwall, and Mount Saint Mary College, among others to provide a robust program that engages and inspires our scholars to leave NFA North Campus prepared for college and career!
Newburgh program a gateway for students to careers in health care
Jaylah Luna is 8 years old and already knows she wants to be a nurse when she grows up.
On Saturday mornings, Jaylah and her family head to the Newburgh Armory Unity Center on South Williams Street where she and her younger siblings take part in an array of courses offered by volunteers. She just started her third term of nursing and health classes there.
“I love being in this class,” Jaylah said. Jaylah, with her mother, Yomaria Luna, nearby, walked around the simulated hospital in the back of the classroom. Her favorite parts of the course are the different hands-on activities she gets to do in the hospital, like learning how to place someone in a wheelchair, helping them into a bed, checking medical charts.
“First we have to knock and say, ‘Can we come in?’ and tell the person in the bed, tell her their name and make sure it’s the right room because you don’t want to walk into the wrong room,” Jaylah said.
“You have to make sure you lock the chair. You have to put your arm around their back,” Jaylah said, demonstrating the technique with her mother. “And ask them, ‘Are you OK? Do you feel dizzy?’ And then you can start walking.”
Nursing and health education at the Armory is the brainchild of Linda Romano, a registered nurse and Newburgh teacher. She was named 2018 teacher of the year by the Association for Career and Technical Education for her work as a health science educator and leader of the nurse aide program at Newburgh Free Academy’s north campus.
After working weekdays at the high school, Romano voluntarily reports to the Armory at 7 a.m. on Saturdays to teach five one-hour nursing classes to children in kindergarten through ninth grade.
Tenth-grade students interested in learning more about health care can continue taking Romano’s courses at the high school level. Senior students sit for the New York State Nurse Aid Exam. If they pass, they leave high school with a license to practice home health aid or medical assisting.
What they’re saying about the Armory program:
“It’s a flourishing (nursing) program, and it has recently been identified as a state model. We have a waiting list, so we know the interest is there. We already know from an economy perspective that the need is there. So now it’s about how do we get exposure early in grades, as early as kindergarten, and give them those experiences that are going to help them flourish even more when they get to high school and ultimately when they get to college.”Dr. Roberto Padilla, superintendent of Newburgh schools
“Everybody’s talking about how can they do the same thing? It’s going to be nationwide. You ask me, ‘How do you know it’s going to continue?’ It will only continue as long as the Armory keeps its mission, just to concentrate and be a niche organization. We want it to be a think-tank center.” Bill Kaplan, founder and board chair of the Newburgh Armory Unity Center
“Our goal is that they don’t have to take any remedial courses; that they can start earlier in their career to educate them and get them familiar with the context of it, not just in a classroom, but training with information so that it’s almost like second nature to them.”Margaret Deyo-Allers, vice president and chief nurse at Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital
“This really does represent a very unique paradigm in workforce development, in areas of literacy - to speak to some of the other areas at the Armory - and with social determinants of success. That there are places all around the country that could benefit from this type of model, whether you’re talking about my hometown of Flint, Mich.; Toledo, Ohio; Gary, Ind. I’m sure they have large armories and many willing partners.”Dr. Jason Adsit, president of Mount Saint Mary College
“They’re like a universal health care worker, so to speak,” Romano said.
Post-graduation, students can choose between jumping into a career or further schooling.
Romano said they offer job fairs at the Armory where students come dressed in uniforms with copies of their resumes and portfolios in-hand to do on-the-spot interviews for local employers like Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital, Crystal Run Healthcare, Access: Supports for Living or Sapphire Nursing.
Frequently, St. Luke’s employees volunteer to teach their specialty. For instance, St. Luke’s Pharmacy Manager John Battiato taught the May 18 classes while Romano was out of town.
Students graduating from Romano’s program at NFA also have high acceptance rates into local colleges, like Mount Saint Mary in Newburgh.
Those students often return to help Romano teach at the Armory, like Sarpreet Singh, who graduated from NFA in 2018 and is now a pre-med student at SUNY New Paltz.
“So now it’s a continuous thread,” Romano said.
Mount Saint Mary College President Jason Adsit said learning through teaching can be a highly effective method. Mount Saint Mary’s nursing students are volunteering at the Armory, like Romano’s NFA students, as a way to gain clinical experience. In turn, it helps the young students connect with the course material in a relatable way.
“They see a relatively younger adult, as opposed to a faculty member or classroom teacher, who’s in - and aspiring for - the profession that they want,” Adsit said. “And they can fumble through it together; they can learn together; they can think critically together. And so this has multiple levels of benefit.”
Staff at St. Luke’s also have a vested interest in helping children understand health care at an early age, since they could end up working for the hospital one day.
“Our struggles in the hospital are with the new grads coming up to be career ready, job ready,” said Margaret Deyo-Allers, vice president and chief nurse at St. Luke’s. “It takes about four to six months to orient someone and then probably another year before they’re independent ... to really be able to operationalize and understand the complexities and be able to connect the dots of all that they know and navigate themselves and their patients through their health care.”
The program’s goals align with the mission of Armory founder and board Chair Bill Kaplan, which is to use the space at 321 South Williams Street as an communal education hub. More than 560 children are enrolled in more than 40 various courses at the Armory.
Kaplan wants all children to be able to read and write on a third-grade level. Every course at the Armory has a literacy component and is intentionally structured to engage parents, too. Kaplan believes basic levels of literacy can increase a person’s chance of success. But most importantly, he views literacy as the key to lowering Newburgh’s poverty rate, which hovers around 30 percent.
“We see this as a model for the country,” Kaplan said. “We have a package put together that anybody could use. You don’t have to have a large armory. A smaller town could have part of it. But we will provide, like a franchise, all the information (for) how you can use this in your community and how it could be spread out throughout the country.”
But Kaplan’s model hinges on all the involved parties working together.
“It’s very easy to be silo-ed, with great intentions, right?” said Newburgh schools Superintendent Roberto Padilla. “Each one of the institutions could go about doing their work in a silo-ed way, but not reap the benefits of the level of collaboration taking place.”
Padilla broke down the model into four primary components: community, school district, higher education, industry partner. Each contributes in its own way to the lifelong success of a child. The model becomes self-sustaining when alums return as volunteers in the community to teach young children in the place where they began their own career voyage.
The nursing model is a known success in Newburgh, but the school district is also operating similarly constructed programs in the fields of criminal justice and computer science.
Padilla said providing students with options is a moral imperative.
He said children often ask him about what opportunities they’ll have after high school, noting that children today are more focused on their futures than when he was growing up in Newburgh. Therefore, the district pushes college and career as equally viable options post-graduation.
“Whichever way you decide to go, our task is simply to give them options to help build themselves up so they have options and then they can determine for themselves what entry they will take,” Padilla said.
Luna, mother to aspiring nurse Jaylah, said she heard about courses at the Armory through her sister-in-law. At first, Luna was worried Jaylah and her 4-year-old brother wouldn’t want to give up their Saturdays for extra schooling.
“She (Jaylah) needs help with math, and needs help with reading, and I saw they offered that here so I signed her up and was like, ‘You can take dance, too, and they have nursing,’” Luna said. “Her grades got better; they went up a little. Her reading improved. She doesn’t even know she’s learning, but she likes it.”
Story was written by Lana Bellamy and published in the Sunday, June 2, 2019 edition of the Times Herald Record.
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