RappU gets down to work(force)

With its second adult-education semester underway — and some 150 Rappahannock residents enrolled in more than 20 classes on everything from American politics to poetry and fiction writing to making mosaic works of art — the nonprofit non-university known as RappU has made significant progress toward founder Doug Schiffman’s longstanding goal to make it a center for workforce development.

As RappU’s actual center nears completion — at Sperryville Trading, Eric Tollefson’s market-cafe under construction at the former Emporium building on U.S. 211 west of the village — Schiffman announced late last month that RappU is ready, with a signed letter of intent from Valley Health’s Page Memorial Hospital in Luray and a start-up grant from the Fauquier-based PATH Foundation, to offer training to the licensed nurses it hopes will then begin teaching classes next spring for Certified Nurse’s Aide, Medical Technician, Personal Care Aide and other related health-care certifications.

“For the nurse’s aide, personal care aide and med-tech courses,” Schiffman says, “we are bringing in a company that the state nursing board approves to train the trainers.”

At 7 p.m. next Thursday (Oct. 20), by which time Schiffman hopes to be in the new facility, RappU is holding an “open meeting” to brief any licensed nurse (the license must be active, even if the nurse is retired or working only part-time) who’s interested in signing up for the training classes.

PATH’s “very generous contribution” will allow RappU to offer the training to nurses for free, Schiffman says. The four-day training itself is scheduled the first week of December.

“The PATH Foundation understands that having a well-trained corps of health workers is important to the health of the community,” said Kirsten Dueck, PATH’s senior program officer. “We are interested in this project’s potential to meet two important challenges in Rappahannock County: to support rural health services and to grow professional workforce opportunity.”

Valley Health, Schiffman says, will help manage the training as well as handle placements for each course’s significant clinical-experience component, most likely at the hospital in Page or associated nursing-home and rehab facilities nearby. The letter signed by Page Memorial President Travis Clark also commits to in-kind contributions of supplies and equipment.

Speaking of equipment — and of RappU’s other plan to start offering Basic Life Support (BLS) training for emergency responders — Schiffman says the center has received a donation of a retired ambulance, and promises from all of the county’s volunteer rescue squads to provide equipment and supplies, if and when RappU is approved by the state’s emergency services authorites to hold such classes at its facility.

“There is a company with facilities in Stafford County and Manassas that will come in and use our facility, with their instructors, to teach Basic Life Support,” Schiffman says. “At this point they are simply waiting for me to tell them that the building is finished. They’ll inspect it, the state will inspect it, and once the facility is certified, we can set up when they will come in and teach the class.”

That would probably also happen in the spring, Schiffman says.

“The local rescue companies have been extremely helpful,” he says. “They said, ‘Don’t buy anything; we have all the equipment you will need, and we’ll bring it in.’ ”

Schiffman says he has also been working with Rappahannock County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Matthews to offer “parallel classes” to interested high school students. “Right now, if a kid wants to take a nurse’s aide class,” Schiffman says, “that kid has to go to Madison, which is too long a day, or to Lord Fairfax Community College. We can offer that class 10 minutes from the high school.”

Schiffman says RappU has been fortunate to find grant funding from the PATH Foundation, the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation’s Lykes Fund, and the Greve Foundation.

“All of that, and having a real facility, has given RappU credibility,” says Schiffman, who then addresses a concern that few people who’ve spoken with the ultra-organized Schiffman ever actually have. “It’s no longer a crazy idea.”

There’s more about RappU online at rappu.org.


Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 544 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.