By Cindy Zomar, Education Coordinator
MARLBOROUGH – In a year like no other, 31 adults from 17 cities and towns met all the rigorous requirements necessary to earn their Certificate of Proficiency in Licensed Practical Nursing through the full-time program at Assabet Valley Regional Technical School (AVRTS).
The crowd of families and well-wishers in the school auditorium let their excitement be known with whoops and hollers as each graduate was announced.
Poignantly, there was one “Yay, Mom” shout from an adult in the audience.
A chaotic, wild ride
For Director Ellen Santos, this marked her thirtieth graduation ceremony with the program. That being said, she called this experience of educating during the COVID-19 pandemic the most challenging task of her career.
“This group of nurse educators used all their creativity, resources, and ‘seat of the pants’ ingenuity to get through the year,” she said, crediting her faculty. “We got every day done, but some days were more painful than others.”
The students were faced with a combination of remote classes and in-person sessions. Through that, they were still able to do their clinical rotations at various health care partners.
“This group knew it was going to be an unpredictable, sometimes chaotic, wild ride, but they got on the train and hung on tight,” Santos continued.
‘A job with meaning’
One graduate, John Baird, was excited to be finishing the program with his family looking on proudly from the audience.
Baird graduated from the Biotechnology program at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School in 2018 and matriculated to Quinsigamond Community College to major in Business.
“I realized that I should do this, become a nurse, even though I didn’t take a common pathway,” he explained. “I was looking for a job with meaning and with job security, and my mom is a nurse, so I decided this was the time to do it.”
Others noted an urge to answer the call to aid the community in a time of need.
“We took the boldest decision in our lives to be trained as nurses…to fill up the vacuum across Middlesex and Worcester counties as part of our rotation,” Class President Eric Aniagyei told his classmates in his graduation address. “We will always be proud of the resilience, the tenacity and the commitment of our great faculty who made it possible for this day.”
Most prepared class ever
As Santos finished her speech at graduation, she reminded her students of the unprecedented hurdles they had overcome while assuring them that they are prepared.
“As nurses, you will be called on to rise above the chaos, to be flexible and resilient, to maintain composure regardless of the circumstance,” she said. “You will be asked to work with your team and then, without notice, to work with another team. When I look at this class and think about what happened this year, I will say you may be the most prepared class ever.”
Forty-seven years of nurse training
There has been an adult nursing program at AVRTS since 1974, offering local adults an opportunity to become a nurse in just ten months.
In the program’s 47 years, there have been only four Directors; Marion Zuretti, Joan Kilroy, Rose Veith and now Santos, who is retiring this month. Current faculty member John Nagelschmidt will step up to the Director level following Santos’ retirement.