July 22, 2021

From Career Changers to Recent High School Graduates, 116 Area Adults Enter the World of Medicine

From career changers to recent high school graduates, 116 area adults entered the post-pandemic world of healthcare on July 15 thanks to the Capital Region BOCES Adult Health Careers Program.

With family and friends looking on from the seats of the Times Union Center in Albany, the members of the Adult Practical Nursing Class of 2021 received their diplomas and nursing pins in a tradition-packed ceremony.

A few hours earlier in the day, dozens of members of the Class of 2020 also took part in their own ceremony at the Times Union Center, taking job in the celebration that was delayed a year by the COVID pandemic.

During an evening ceremony, the white-clad nursing students in the class of 2021 closed a chapter on their lives and rewrote their own history. The successful completion of the 10-month full time class or the 18-month part-time adult practical nursing class allows the adults to now take the national certification exam and become an LPN, opening doors into the licensed healthcare workforce, which has been facing a national shortage because of the aging of the baby boom generation.

Speaker after speaker praised the graduates for overcoming their circumstances – as well as an international pandemic – and completing the rigorous course while working full-time and raising families.

“It feels great to graduate. It’s been a long journey. Tough, but rewarding,” said graduate Kailtyn Laux.

The graduates who hail from communities as far afield as Amsterdam, Middleburgh and Cohoes – include two sets of mothers and daughters, numerous career changers and single parents.

Fellow graduate Ashley Watson of Coxsackie is among the graduates looking for a better life thanks to Capital Region BOCES.

“I am improving myself and the situation for my daughter. I have been in healthcare for 10 years and it is time to improve my situation. This is allowing me to do just that,” she said.

Another of the graduates is Abigale McKenzie who realized during the pandemic that a career in healthcare was for her.

“My son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during this pandemic and I spent a lot of home in hospitals and with nurses and I realized that I really want to be there to help people,” said McKenzie who lives in Cambridge.

Also graduating was Watervliet resident Khadijah Thompson, who is using the adult education program to advance up the health careers ladder.

“I love to help people and I work right now as a PCA so this allows me to further my education. It’s important to do this,” Thompson said.

Paula Negri, principal of the Adult Health Careers Center, said the graduates are in high demand in the health care industry.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for LPNs will grow 9 percent by 2029 with nearly 66,000 new jobs being created.

“I am proud of the hard work these students put into to overcome so many obstacles, including a global pandemic, to prepare themselves to help meet the need of the healthcare industry and society,” she said.