By Jill Couch

Since starting at the Celebration Foundation in August, I have been working most days in the office learning the ins and outs of my new position and meeting great folks affiliated with Celebration Foundation.

But, in September, because of my background as a nurse, I got to tag along with our former Executive Director, Gloria Niec, and board member, Dave Berelsman, on a “road trip” to Kissimmee to visit the nursing students at Osceola Technical College (oTech) to discuss our newly created “Stairsteps to Nursing” program.

We have multiple goals with our Stairsteps program:

  1.  To encourage more students to become LPNs.
  2. To break down financial barriers for these students, allowing them to graduate more quickly and begin nursing work in the county.
  3. To encourage them to continue their RN training at Valencia College and BSN degrees at UCF sometime in the future.

At oTech, we met with Thomas Ott, the Principal, and Chelsea Shell, the oTech Health Services Supervisor, who informed us of the needs for the current students enrolled in the Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) Program at oTech. As a team, we discussed ways to use a small scholarship from our Foundation to help support this special group of students.

We learned that many of these students faced financial struggles. They were concerned with how they would manage to pay for food, rent, and electricity bills, and struggled to find the funds needed.

These future LPNs are required to take an Intravenous (I.V.) Certification Course at the end of their training at oTech. The problem is that this course has a fee that is in addition to their LPN classes, but it’s required because it will provide specialty skills to these students and increase their job opportunities. The extra cost is a barrier to some students.

The students also need to buy a simple white uniform for their Capping and Pinning Ceremony, a right of passage and tradition for graduating nurses. This ceremony is the culmination of a rigorous program of study. It’s a BIG deal for a nurse, and their “pinner” is typically a veteran nurse and someone special to the student.

We reviewed the costs involved and then decided we had the money to help. We would cover the IV Certification Course, as well as providing the white uniforms for their Capping and Pinning Ceremony for ALL of the LPN nursing students!

Understanding that mentoring is vital for new nurses, the Celebration Foundation will also host a networking lunch on the day of the ceremony. We will use this lunch as a way to connect these students to faculty and staff in the nursing programs at Valencia College and AdventHealth.

The invited faculty will be able to chat with the students and explain the processes, requirements, and next steps to advance their nursing education.

Following our meeting, we returned to the classroom and announced that the Celebration Foundation would pay for both testing costs and their white scrubs. With both joy and relief, each student came up to thank us and shake our hands or hug us. Their gratitude was palpable in that room and it was a very emotional moment for all of us.

We can’t wait to attend their graduation, and we look forward to seeing how they will give back to the community!

If you would like to know more about our Stairsteps to Nursing program or have an idea to help us support these students, call Celebration Foundation at 407-566-1234.