#InspiringExcellence – CNA/AEL Program Gives Second Chances, Changes Lives

August 17, 2018 | Campus News Inspiring Excellence

Healthcare was always a field of interest for Pacific resident Heather Delisi. “My mother and my aunt were both Certified Nurse Assistants,” she explained. “It’s something I grew up with.”

The drive to help people in need is what led Kayla Jenkins to healthcare. “I want to become a nurse. I want to help new moms and take care of new babies,” the Union resident said.

Both had something standing in their way – no high school diploma.

“I dropped out when I was 16,” Delisi explained. “At the time, I was following my fiancé to a new state.”

She is now 36, and decided it was time to finish what she started.

“I wanted to show my kids I could do it,” she said. “I want to set a good example.”

Jenkins left high school her senior year. She admits bad influences got in the way of her education. Nearly seven years later, she made a very important phone call.

“I called my old high school about getting my diploma, and they told me about a local program for people just like me,” she said. “I have a daughter now, and I need a career – not just a job.”

Both landed at the East Central College Adult Education and Literacy Program and enrolled in the Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) program. It is designed to prepare individuals to care for clients in long-term care facilities, hospitals and home health agencies. The innovative program consists of 75 hours of classroom training and 100 hours of supervised clinical training. It also includes 100 hours preparation for the high school equivalency exam.

“After looking into the program, I was ready. I said ‘let’s do this,’” said Jenkins.

“I was tired of just sitting at home,” said Delisi. “I admit I was a little terrified starting the program. I had no idea what to expect.”

Her fears quickly went away once the program got underway. “The class sizes were small. It made me so much more comfortable,” she said.

Terri Warmack leads the CNA program. As the Health Careers Workforce Coordinator, she knows the program can be a life-changing experience for many.

“This program is about second chances,” she said. “It’s about taking that first step to a new life. Certified Nurse Assistants are vital to healthcare. It’s a rewarding, exciting and challenging career where you can make a difference every day.”

“Terri is a great teacher,” said Delisi. “She’s like another mom. She relates to us. We laugh together. We cry together.”

Betsy Williams is also in the classroom. As an AEL instructor, she is helping the class prepare to get their high school equivalency.

“Betsy is all about discipline,” Delisi joked. “She keeps on us to make sure we stay the course.”

The combination is working. In August, Jenkins and Delisi passed the final exam to become a Certified Nurse Assistant through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. They will now both finish their High School Equivalency in the coming weeks.

“Once this is over, I plan to get a job and take a break,” said Jenkins, “but it’s not over. I want to keep going.”

“It feels so good to prove so many people wrong,” said Delisi. “I want to keep proving people wrong and become a registered nurse.”

The next CNA/AEL starts in September. Students must be 18 years of age at the start of the program. For more information: 636-584-6531, Terri.Warmack@EastCentral.edu.