Dear Foundation members,
For the past year, I have had the privilege of being a part of the CNA program at AIS. As a nurse of 30 years, the transition to teaching took place about 4 years ago, when I became part of a team at Southwest Indiana Health Services Academy. Little did I know that eventually I would be asked to teach at AIS.
As the opportunity presented itself, I was not sure I was a “good fit” for high school students. It didn’t take long for me to realize this was, and is exactly where I belong. After raising five of my own children I thought that I knew all there was to know about this age group. I quickly realized how much I had to learn. My children have not had to jump the hurdles that these students have. Many of these young people don’t know where they will be sleeping at night and many have not seen a parent in years. I realized that these students need a purpose; they need to be reminded of their value and worth.
In the CNA classroom, students learn to step out of their comfort zone into a world that is unfamiliar to most teenagers. It is a world of serving others, mainly those that can’t serve themselves. There is no greater joy than to serve, and no greater fulfillment than to help the sick and aging. Many students that do not come to class regularly now have a purpose and a goal and they are attending class. They also have a job with health benefits and paid vacation. To most, this is something that would not have been within their reach.
I watch as students come to class, sometimes running so they won’t be late. I watch as students participate in weekend and after school study sessions. I have observed these students in the clinical setting and have been moved to tears as I’ve seen the display of tenderness. I see them clean soiled linens, bathe residents, and take vital signs. I see them cut up food and feed those that can’t feed themselves. I watch them as they listen to residents tell stories of their own youth. I see them hold the hands and walk with the elderly residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. I see the students weep at the loss of a life during a clinical day.
I’ve been able to be there as students have opened up about their own lives. Some stories so gut-wrenching that I feel desperate in my desire to “fix it” for them. Many of these students have had no role model. My eyes have been opened to the deep pain in the hearts of some of these students. I realize that this CNA program is a great start to a “fix it” for many students. It’s the start of a new way of thinking. It changes the focus from self to others. It creates a sense of purpose and belonging that spurs them on towards finishing high school. I recently had a Human Resources employee for the Heritage Center tell me that one of our students from our first CNA class is one of the best employees they’ve ever had. As we attend clinical I see students that were in our program. They are earning a paycheck and fulfilling a purpose.
I have learned so much about these students. I have learned that I had my own set of stereotypes. I have seen transformation occur that I would have long since given up on. I have learned to get out of my comfort zone and love. I’ve learned that I love these students by believing in them and believing the best for them. This is a love that most of them have never experienced. They have given me back much more than I have given them.
The future is at stake. Many of us will reach a place in our lives when we will need care. It is such a privilege to know that this program is preparing the next generation of caregivers. By building confidence, trust, and character, we can change the trajectory of the lives of many students. This CNA program is doing just that.
Lisa Taylor RN
Lead Instructor AIS