Students gain valuable experience in Ashwaubenon
By Ben Rodgers
ASHWAUBENON – Some students at Ashwaubenon High School are learning skills for their future in a growing field from licensed professionals, and all they have to do is walk across the street.
The Ashwaubenon School District has partnered with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and Woodside Senior Living to offer high school students a hands-on opportunity to become a certified nursing assistant.
“There is approximately 11,000 nursing assistant jobs open in the state of Wisconsin right now, so we’re in a huge labor crisis,” said Cindy Theys, associate dean at NWTC. “What we’re determining here on campus is we’re getting less returning adults coming into the nursing assistant field, but our interest in high school students was rapidly growing. So we decided to go after and focus our effort on increasing the enrollment of high school students in our nursing assistant program.”
Grant funding opportunities through the Wisconsin Technical College System and Department of Workforce Development Fast Forward Program, as well as financial commitments from NWTC and Woodside, allowed the development and launch of a nursing assistant learning lab/classroom space.
Ashwaubenon students in grades 11 and 12 are able to participate in the nursing assistant course taught by NWTC faculty, with classroom/lab/clinical portions of the curriculum offered at Woodside Senior Living.
Completion of this coursework prepares students to successfully complete the nursing assistant registry exam, which provides state of Wisconsin certification, allowing employment as a CNA.
The course is already full for the second semester with 10 Ashwaubenon juniors and seniors, eight are enrolled in the course for the first semester.
“It’s a start for students in health care and it can continue to lead them to other opportunities, whether it be dual credit at the high-school level, or contitung on at NWTC or another post-secondary institution in the area of health care,” said Brooke Holbrook, K-12 relations manager with NWTC.
She said when groups come together for an offering like this, it’s usually a good sign.
“When you have people like Ashwaubenon High School and Woodside willing to work together, it makes a lot of sense to go ahead and collaborate with them and get a classroom up and rolling,” Holbrook said.
Currently NWTC offers the same program for 23 school districts in the state.
The 120-hour, state-approved program puts students in the lab that was constructed at Woodside for part of the learning, and includes actual hands-on care for the residents for another part.
Students take part in the program in the morning, or as schedules allow, then cross the street to continue with regular high school classes.
Jill Kieslish, director of instruction for the Ashwaubenon School District said the project would not be possible without the help of Woodside.
“When we first set all of this up, we had a number of meetings with Woodside,” she said. “They have been nothing but gracious. They have done everything and then some to make sure this program is accessible for our students.”
So far it has paid off.
Kieslish said students in the course are being asked to perform at a college level and have succeeded.
“From my standpoint and from what I’ve talked about with the counselors is kids really want to get into that nursing program because they want to become a certified nursing assistant, a registered nurse, and licensed nurse practitioner, a clinician or a physician, and they realize that this program is ideal,” she said.
Another major benefit for students is they can gain experience in high school and determine for sure if it’s something they would want to do with the rest of their lives.
“We got kids walking across the street, getting into a nursing home, seeing what’s happening in a nursing home, doing their clinicals, and they are going to understand right then and there if this is for them,” Kieslish said.