Informal talks have begun between public school officials and community members in Rappahannock County interested in getting a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) class started at the high school – a class that could be open to the public as well as to students.
The possibility was brought up at the school board’s regular meeting earlier this month by superintendent Aldridge Boone, who told the board of a recent meeting with Rappahannock resident (and Aging Together Partnership chair) Sallie Morgan, community volunteer Linda Dietel and several high school administrators. Boone said: “Right now I don’t see anything to bar it happening. I think it could work.”
It was no coincidence that Morgan and Dietel set up the meeting with the superintendent; the two are frequently seen volunteering for local Aging Together (and other seniors-related) programs, including Aging Together’s upcoming annual Community Conversation on Aging, which this year is devoted to addressing a) the county’s growing population of older adults, and b) ways to create well-paying career paths for Rappahannock’s youth, including healthcare careers, one of the country’s fastest-growing industries.
Boone said it was a “fortunate, completely out-of-the-blue” meeting.
The April 30 Conversation on Aging is open to the public and – also not coincidentally – will be held in the high school’s band room, starting at 3:30 on that Monday afternoon (April 30). Boone said the Conversation, and especially any to-do lists that grow out of it, would coincide with the school division’s efforts to look into certification of a local nursing-assistant program by, most likely, Lord Fairfax Community College.
Dietel said Boone was very enthusiastic about the possibility, and has been interested in such a program but unable so far to make it happen.
“This is just a conversation right now,” Dietel said, “meant to look at the problem, and what the solutions might be.” And to find any funding possibilities? “I think that’s the next step,” she said. “But the first is getting people to know what’s involved, and what the requirements are. It’s important, because [a CNA training program] is the first step for many young people interested in healthcare.”
According to Boone, students (as well as interested members of the public) who took the class would receive certificates from an accrediting organization, most likely LFCC. Similar programs operate in Madison and Fauquier counties’ public school divisions.
The Community Conversation on Aging, meanwhile, plans to look at the larger questions and issues raised by Rappahannock’s aging population, including ways to build rescue squads as career options for Rappahannock students and getting younger people interested in healthcare careers in general.
A CNA program can launch a student toward personal care, nursing or any number of careers in healthcare. The need for skilled staff to support folks here who want to grow older at home, or to staff the critical service provided by local rescue squads, is readily evident in the number of referrals received by the Department of Social Services and the number and types of calls received by Rappahannock’s first responders, according to an Aging Together spokesperson.
For the April 30 Conversation on Aging, the organization would welcome students, parents, teachers, healthcare professionals, employers, older adults and others “for a few hours of brainstorming and discussion about building a strong, locally grown workforce.” For more information about the event, contact Aging Together at 540-829-6405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.