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(Beloit, WI) Hillary Gavan, Beloit Daily News

Two Beloit women are beyond excited about their upcoming graduation and entry into the workforce.

Raven Napolean and Felicia Smith, along with six other students, were awarded scholarships from Blackhawk Technical College (BTC) and the Beloit Health & Rehabilitation Center (BHR) in the nursing assistant program. As part of the scholarship agreement, they are guaranteed employment after graduation at BHR.

Napolean, 19, said she became interested in becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA) after her brother passed away from cancer and she found herself wanting to help others. She also said she gets along well with older people, especially her granny Alathia who lives with her.

“She’s my rock,” Napolean said. “We are two peas in a pod.”

Napolean said she realizes one day she herself could be in a nursing home and wants to ensure there will always be top-notch and qualified staff at nursing homes.

For Felicia Smith, the scholarship came at the right time. She was juggling jobs at McDonald’s and a call center when she decided to start a career in health care.

After becoming a CNA, she hopes to continue her education and one day become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and eventually a registered nurse (RN). She’s already enjoying her schooling, learning about giving bed baths, oral care and ensuring patient rights.

“I’m really happy and excited about the program. It’s a great opportunity,” Smith said.

Smith and Napolean will be graduating in April where they will begin work with BHR. The other scholarship winners are: Brandi Hoppe and Kimberly Lawrence of Janesville as well as Shana Edwards, Latrice Pritchard, Cheri Votaw and DeaLeSha Perry of Beloit.

According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association 2014 report, hospitals employ more than 7,800 individuals as CNAs with a vacancy rate of 7.1 percent.

The report also stated that as Wisconsin’s population ages and has more health needs, the need for a strong health care workforce becomes more important. Many working in health care will be retiring in the coming years. Approximately 20 percent of hospital-employed professional occupations are age 55 or older.

Traci Scherck, the director of workforce management at Fortis Management Group, LLC, worked with the admissions team and the college to help create the scholarship opportunity on behalf of Beloit Health and Rehab.

Scherck said getting the scholarships would allow students to jump start a career in healthcare and allowing BHR to bring in qualified staff to serve residents.

Scherk said the CNA classes are six to 12 weeks long and would otherwise cost students roughly $800 for tuition, books and the associated state exam fee.

Nursing assistants care for patients under the supervision of a professional registered nurse in a variety of settings. BTC’s nursing assistant program is a pathway to other health-related programs, and the program is accredited by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Bureau of Quality Assurance.

After completing entrance requirements, a criminal background check and clinical requirements, nursing assistant students undergo 120 hours of courses that include classroom time and practicum.

Beloit Health and Rehabilitation is offering another eight scholarships for students to begin coursework in March. Interested applicants should contact BHR at 608-365-2555.

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