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  • Today Online

Scholarship healthcare graduates ready to combat COVID

Updated: Feb 8, 2022

• Tunxis rep to graduates — “Residents of Connecticut need you, and you are meeting the moment”

• Jessica Kelsey of Farmington is sole Valley resident in graduate group

• Tunxis Community College celebrated 50th anniversary in 2020

Via a groundbreaking statewide scholarship program, Tunxis Community College graduates are ready for health careers that can make a constructive difference related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tunxis curriculum has historically included training for certified nurse aides and sterile processing technicians. This school year, a new scholarship provided free and streamlined training for these two in-demand health careers — specifically, for workers who lost their jobs during the state government's COVID-19 shutdown.

Tunxis is one of the largest training providers for the statewide scholarship initiative, funded by a $127,000 grant administered by Capital Workforce Partners with support from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development and the CARES Act.

Tunxis expects to offer the scholarship program again but awaits confirmation regarding more CARES Act funds.

“I would like to commend our students for having the courage and persistence to undertake this important training in the midst of a pandemic," says Eileen Peltier of the North-West Region of Connecticut Community Colleges, who led the training program for Tunxis. “Residents of Connecticut need you, and you are meeting the moment.”

Graduates completed coursework lasting about eight weeks through a combination of online and in-person instruction. Jessica Kelsey of Farmington is among 53 Tunxis graduates who received certificates in December. The sole Farmington Valley resident in this graduate group, Kelsey is now a certified sterile processing technician.

“This program really helped me get that hope and motivation back that I needed to go into the world and make a difference” — Jazzmyne Mitchell • Tunxis grad

Jazzmyne Mitchell of East Harford, a Tunxis certified nurse aide graduate, has a poignant story regarding her journey to graduation. Her uncle died of COVID-19 — and that loss prompted her to pursue a new career path. During the pandemic, she was part of a workforce layoff and also lost her grandmother to cancer.

“I wanted to work in the medical field to help slow down this disease that’s affecting millions of families like my own,” says Mitchell.

Mitchell notes that when she had in-person classes, she woke up at 5 a.m. and rode on three buses to get to Tunxis, located in Farmington at the intersection of Routes 6 and 177.

“This program really helped me get that hope and motivation back that I needed to go into the world and make a difference,” Mitchell says. “The training I received was intense, but it taught me everything I needed to know to go out into this field and really know what I’m doing.”

Since graduating, Mitchell has passed her state exam and is pursuing a CNA career — CNA stands for certified nursing assistant or aide.

In addition to the graduates’ tuition for the CNA and sterile processing technician programs, the scholarship covered career counseling, interview preparation, job placement assistance, technology resources, and a stipend for transportation and expenses.

“Completing your training during these extraordinary times tells all of us that nothing will stop you from achieving any goals you put your mind to,” James Lombella, North-West regional president of the Connecticut Community Colleges, told the graduates in his formal address in December. “This ability to stay focused and follow through on your commitment will serve you well in your new workplace.”

The following notables are among those who also addressed the Tunxis graduating class — Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz, Tunxis campus CEO Darryl Reome and Mark Ojakian, then-president of the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities.

“The training I received was intense, but it taught me everything I needed to know to go out into this field and really know what I’m doing” — Jazzmyne Mitchell • Tunxis grad

In addition to the statewide scholarship initiative, students interested in these two programs have access to financial aid via SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIOA (Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act), among other sources. Besides Capital Workforce Partners, other funding agencies have supported the scholarship, including the Governor’s Workforce Council and Social Venture Partners International.

The CNA and sterile processing technician programs are part of an array of health career training offered at Tunxis. Other programs include emergency medical technician (EMT), patient care technician, registered medical assistant, certified pharmacy technician and certified phlebotomy technician.

Tunxis Community College celebrated its 50th anniversary of education and community service in 2020, and the 20th anniversary of its satellite facility, Tunxis@Bristol. When Tunxis opened in 1970, 494 students were enrolled — but today's average is about 6,000 students per semester in more than 70 credit and continuing-education programs.

After receiving a two-year associate's degree from Tunxis — and other community colleges across the state and nation — graduates are prepared for employment and/or a four-year college in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.

Since the first Tunxis graduation in 1972, more than 14,700 graduates have received more than 18,200 degrees and certificates from the college.

By Bruce Deckert — Today Magazine Editor-in-Chief

Sources — Tunxis Community College + independent reporting

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