Sixteen is the number of Lawrence High School juniors who have completed the inaugural year of the certified nursing assistant program, a two-year educational track in conjunction with the Nassau BOCES Barry Tech campus in Westbury that aims to have students obtain a nursing assistant certificate as they earn a high school diploma.
Andrew Weisman, supervisor of Pupil Personnel Services for the Lawrence School District, said the idea for the program originated from Nassau BOCES. “The people at BOCES reached out to us about a program like this,” he said. “After speaking with [Lawrence Superintendent Dr. [Ann] Pedersen, we thought this would be a great idea. I spread the word around the school and spoke with our guidance department to see which students would be the best for this program.”
Pedersen called the program her “favorite” because of seeing how hard the students work. “A lot of times, high school students don’t know their direction,” she said. “These students in the program are so focused on their work and it will help them get employed or continue their education in health care after high school.”
Barry Tech Assistant Principal Madelaine Hackett highlighted the program’s importance for students. “The benefit of this program is that it allows students to get hands-on experience in a field that is in great demand,” she said. “Many nursing homes are constantly recruiting for potential employers.”
Weisman added that the recruitment process for the program began near the end of last school year. “We aimed to get students who were 10th-graders going into their 11th grade year since this is a two-year program,” he said. “The students were eager to sign up because this is something different than your standard English or math class.”
The students spent periods one through three in a specialized classroom at Lawrence High four days a week. The classroom includes needed medical equipment used for patient care. As the school progressed, the students worked at Oceanview Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Far Rockaway for hands-on experience in what is described as “clinical hours” by Weisman. The students were required to complete 70 clinical hours by the end of the school year.
Both Weisman and Hackett agreed that Lawrence and BOCES will work together in the future on other programs. “The first year has gone great,” Hackett said. “There’s been positive reception from both the school and the nursing home.”
Pedersen said that the district plans on increasing the number of BOCES programs at the high school, and they will speak to the students to help determine what programs could offered. “We want to survey our students to see what programs we should offer,” she said. “I joke with others and say that I want our school to become BOCES South.” Weisman said that the students who earn the certificate will be “employable” immediately after high school. “Students are already receiving real-life experience while they’re still in high school,” he said. “This program will help students apply for jobs directly out of high school.”