Youth get head start in health care careers

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Clint Wolf/Beloit Daily News From left, Diane Hendricks of the Hendricks Family Foundation, Tracy Pierner, president of Blackhawk Technical College, and Tim McKevett, president and CEO of Beloit Health System, were gathered for a "Grant Celebration" Saturday. The trio were celebrating grant funding for CNA and nursing students in the area.

BELOIT - Megan Ottinger is a senior at Beloit Turner High School, but she already has her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification and she has plans of furthering her education in the health care field.

"I want to be a physician assistant," she said.

She is one of 70 high school students who were part of the initial CNA program that was initiated through a $450,000 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and a partnership between Beloit Health System, Blackhawk Technical College and CareerTek.

The success of the program and plans for further development of health training opportunities for young people were highlighted during a "Grant Celebration" presentation Saturday, which kicked off Beloit Memorial Hospital's 50th Anniversary celebration.

"Our passion is to provide the best care possible for our patients and that starts with helping to train our nurses," said Beloit Health System President and CEO Tim McKevett. "This fills a critical need in the community."

Lara Hermann, executive director of the Beloit Health System Foundation, and Tina Salzman, former CareerTek Business and Education Director, wrote the grant application for the CNA program with the goal of helping 70 students earn their certification in the first year.

"We had 12 students go through the program by December, but that meant we needed 58 more to meet our goal," Hermann said.

After some community outreach and promotion, the goal was reached.

The grant also helped fund field trips, after-school training in middle schools and job shadowing opportunities for students so they could get a taste of what it is like to be in the health care profession.

The program is open to students who are 15 years old and older. High school students from all over the area have been involved including from Beloit Memorial High School, Beloit Turner, Clinton, Parker, Craig, South Beloit and Hononegah.

Blackhawk Technical College President Tracy Pierner said the college now has a goal of raising $1 million for the Nancy B. Parker Nursing Scholarship program.

"Our goal is to offer a scholarship to every nursing student who applies for funds at Blackhawk Technical College," he said.

So far, the scholarship fund has raised $660,000, thanks to donations from the Hendricks Family Foundation and the Beloit Health System Foundation, among other donors.

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