Empowering students to achieve in and out of the classroom has long been a priority at Fridley High School. This commitment became a reality on Monday, December 11, as students enrolled in the certified nursing assistant class proudly received their well-earned certificates during a celebration event. These certificates mark the beginning of their journey into the field of healthcare as certified nursing assistants, embodying the school's dedication to providing meaningful opportunities for student success.
Twenty FHS juniors and seniors received certificates after completing the CNA program this semester. In addition to completing the course, students also took a certification exam. The program was taught by Carleen Kendall, a retired faculty member in the nursing department from Pine Tech Community College, and overseen by Eric Anderson, FHS physical and health education teacher who also teaches the EMT/EMR courses at FHS. Students met daily for a two period block in order to complete the program within the semester.
“Student voice was the beginning of the movement,” said FHS Assistant Principal Lamii Zarlee about how FHS came to offer this unique course. “We heard from our scholars what they wished Fridley High School could provide.” After identifying this need, Zarlee learned from other districts how they partner with nearby community colleges to make programs like this happen. He then began planning and preparing with Pine Tech Community College and Anoka County, whose partnerships made this program possible.
In addition to helping find a certified instructor to teach, prepare, and support students in the CNA course, Pine Tech Community College offered use of its facilities by inviting students to its campus to participate in clinicals.
“Our partnership with Anoka County's Empowers Program provided financial support for the program,” noted Director of Teaching and Learning, Dr. Jason Bodey. “They will additionally provide job seeking support for our scholars when they finish, and will connect students with resources to get a successful start in the CNA field.”
The district was also awarded grant money in 2022 from the state of Minnesota specifically to purchase CNA equipment, such as nursing mannequins and medical supplies. This equipment gave students first hand experience in practicing the skills a CNA needs such as ambulation of patients, toileting, feeding and monitoring their health status.
“A program like this creates access and opportunities for our scholars,” beamed Zarlee. “They're able to go out in the real world and land jobs in the field of nursing right now. They can be key contributors to their community and have the ability to serve.”
The president of Pine Tech Community College, Joe Mulford, attended the certificate celebration to speak to the graduates. “What I love about the nursing assistant program and why I wanted to come here today is because it's one of the most important programs,” Mulford said. “You're taking care of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. And even if you don't go work as a nursing assistant, you've got these really cool skills that you can help out a family member, a neighbor, you know maybe a spouse someday that's had problems and just needs some care.” Mulford also mentioned that the course the FHS scholars just completed is the same course that a college student at Pine Tech Community College would take.
After Mulford’s address, the celebration concluded by students being called individually to receive their certificate from Kendall and Anderson and to take a photo documenting this momentous occasion. Students radiated with the significance of this accomplishment.
In regard to this unique program, Bodey noted that they would like to offer more industry certified certification programs and/or college credit earning opportunities. They are exploring options that could come to Fridley in the near future.
“I am just super proud of how consistent our scholars were, and I appreciate the consistent effort they brought day in and out,” said Zarlee, who Bodey credits with overseeing the CNA program. “This group of scholars has set the tone for what is possible, and it brings me joy and optimism on how we can continue to build pathways to careers for our future scholars.”