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Herkimer BOCES programs at Remington school building
connect local adults to educational, career opportunities

Oct. 26, 2017




LPN students studying
Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES adult practical nursing students Shelley Johnson (left) and Darcy Britt stay late after class to study on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at the Remington school building.



ILION – Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES adult practical nursing student Darcy Britt never had the opportunity to continue her education in the way she wanted to until she applied to the Herkimer BOCES nursing program.

Britt, 34, said her college experience wasn’t ideal, and she considered herself the poster child for the idea that you can always go back to college, but then you never do.

“I got to working and paying bills, and there was no financial way for me to do it,” she said. “And this program, it allowed me to get back into the education system in a field that I really enjoy – in a way that was financially feasible. It’s a great program.”

Britt is one of about 100 local adults receiving a chance for higher education and/or immediate employment in the healthcare industry through the Herkimer BOCES adult practical nursing program this school year.

Last school year, a total of 475 adult students – including adults training to be licensed practical nurses or certified nursing assistants and adults taking the high school equivalency and literacy programs – received their education through Herkimer BOCES at the former Remington Elementary School building in Ilion. Almost 160 school-aged children in Herkimer BOCES alternative and special education programs went to school in the Remington building during 2016-17 as well.

Residents of the Herkimer BOCES region will vote from noon to 8 p.m. on Nov. 14 on whether to approve Herkimer BOCES purchasing the former Remington Elementary School building from Central Valley. Herkimer BOCES has been leasing the building since the Ilion-Mohawk merger left it vacant and is now looking to make it a permanent home for the BOCES programs.

The special vote is open to residents of the 10 Herkimer BOCES component school districts: Central Valley, Dolgeville, Frankfort-Schuyler, Herkimer, Little Falls, Mount Markham, Owen D. Young, Poland, Richfield Springs and West Canada Valley.

Central Valley residents will vote on both selling the building to BOCES and BOCES buying the building. Residents of all other component districts will vote just on BOCES buying the building. Both authorizations would have to pass for the sale to be completed.

Voters will be asked to provide one form of proof of residency such as a driver's license, a non-driver identification card, a utility bill or a voter registration card. Voters also will be required to provide their signature and address. Voters who do not provide a proof of residence may be asked to sign a declaration in order to be allowed to vote.

The following are the voting locations for each school district:
  • Central Valley: Jarvis Media Center
     
  • Dolgeville: High School Lobby
     
  • Frankfort-Schuyler: Old Gymnasium
     
  • Herkimer: High School Library
     
  • Little Falls: Middle School Gymnasium
     
  • Mount Markham: Elementary Cafeteria
     
  • Owen D Young: Auditorium
     
  • Poland: Lobby
     
  • Richfield Springs: Entrance adjacent to baseball field
     
  • West Canada Valley: Front Lobby
For more information on the Remington building vote, click here.

Changing lives

Along with being home to secondary school students during the day, the Remington school building is in use morning, noon and night by the various Herkimer BOCES adult education programs located there, Herkimer BOCES Director of Adult, Early Childhood and Outreach Education Mary Kline said.

In addition to the nursing programs, local adults are able to receive equivalents to high-school diplomas through the adult literacy programs. Students take either the National External Diploma program or the high school equivalency test called the Test Assessing Secondary Completion or TASC.

At the adult literacy graduation each year, graduates speak about what a difference the program makes in their lives by giving them for another chance to further their education and become more employable.

“It does change lives,” Kline said. “We’ve seen people who have been able to go on to college and on to employment. Some of them are even employed right here at Herkimer BOCES.”

Kline said the amount of space, the setup and the accessibility of the Remington school building has made it ideal for the adult education programs.

“I have been in many locations,” she said. “This is certainly the most educationally appropriate space that we’ve had the opportunity to be in. I think it sends a better message to all the students that they’re in a school, and this is education. It sends a positive message about education.”

Kline and the adult literacy program have had to move locations 11 times during her career, she said, which creates challenges, especially when people are trying to find a place to earn their high school equivalency diplomas.

“Stability is important, so people begin to identify the building with these programs, and they know where to find us,” she said.

‘Employable when they leave’

Herkimer BOCES adult practical nursing program Coordinator Sara Nicolette surveyed local healthcare employers in a 15-mile radius last spring. About half of the employers responded, but the total number of positions they identified as requiring LPN training was 758. Of those, 95 – or more than 12.5 percent of the positions – were vacant.

The lack of available licensed practical nurses means big opportunities for local adults who want pursue a career in nursing, Nicolette said. Many employers are now willing to pay for or assist with education costs for nursing students, she said.

“They’re desperate,” she said, of the employers looking for LPNs. “Our students come here, and they are employable when they leave. It gives them an education that they can work from for the rest of their lives or use as a stepping stone to continue on in their education in nursing.”

About one-third of Herkimer BOCES adult nursing graduates go on to become registered nurses, and about two-thirds are working as LPNs, Nicolette said.

Herkimer BOCES offers a full-time LPN class and two part-time classes – one that takes place during the day and one that takes place in the evening.

“Most of our students go through part-time because they’re also working,” Nicolette said.

This setup means that adult nursing program students are using the Remington school building from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday, Nicolette said.

“We’re shifting students in and out of here,” she said.

The nursing program has two nursing labs, two well-equipped classrooms, a financial aid office and a faculty office at the Remington school building, Nicolette said.

“It’s crucial that we stay here,” she said. “The location fits us.”

Nicolette said the Remington school building at 77 E. North St. in Ilion is easily accessible from the Thruway and Route 5S and that local adults otherwise would likely have to travel to Syracuse or Albany for similar training.

“If we weren’t here, who’s going to be training these people?” she said. “When you look at the number of students we’ve turned out from here, you think, ‘My god.’”

‘A second home’

Herkimer BOCES adult practical nursing full-time students Britt and Shelley Johnson, 45, stayed after class to study together on Wednesday, Oct. 18, and it’s something they do frequently.

“We are here more than we are home,” Johnson said. “That is the only way to make it through the program in my opinion. I think you have to be comfortable in the environment that you’re at because you’re here so much. It’s a second home.”

Both Johnson and Britt said an advantage of the program is that it has its own dedicated space within the Remington school building where they can focus on learning and go to faculty for help.

“This feels like home,” Britt said. “It feels like we’re supposed to be here.”

Britt said the LPN students are people who want to be there and want to be part of the field, and the instructors are invested as well.

“There is a fantastic support system here,” she said.

Johnson agreed.

“The teachers are fully behind you,” Johnson said. “They want to see you succeed.”

They both said they enjoy working in healthcare and that there is something special about being a nurse.

“It’s not just a job,” Johnson said. “It’s gratifying for me that I’ve helped one more person through one more day.”

‘An opportunity’

Johnson has been working in healthcare for more than 20 years primarily in home care, but she hadn’t been working at Valley Health Services as a certified nursing assistant for very long when she applied for a scholarship there for the Herkimer BOCES full-time program.

When she found out Valley Health Services was going to pay for her tuition, and she would finally have an opportunity to receive the training needed to be an LPN, she almost passed out on the floor, she said.

“It’s something I’ve always want to do,” she said. “My daughter is a junior in high school. I was busy raising her.”

Johnson is now working every other weekend while she goes through the full-time program, and she will have an LPN job waiting for her upon graduation. She also has been encouraged to continue her education to become a registered nurse with the company paying for it if she chooses to, she said.

For now, she is focusing on graduation the full-time program and her daughter graduating high school, she said.

Britt, who has been working in pharmacies for 14 years and is currently a pharmacy technician, is taking a similar approach.

“I would love to be an RN or continue on to an advanced practice degree,” Britt said. “I’m trying to go one step at a time.”

Britt said she had some nerves when she started at Herkimer BOCES.

“I was afraid,” she said. “I did not live up to my collegiate expectations, so to be in this program, I wanted to prove to myself that I can do this. I want to be an asset to this field.”

Britt said the Herkimer BOCES program is helping her – and many others – accomplish their career goals.

“I feel like it gives people an opportunity for a career that they might have not otherwise had,” she said. “I like that we have such a diverse group of people from various backgrounds and socioeconomic settings that are here to cash in on potential.”







 
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