- Associated Press - Monday, January 25, 2016

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - Despite its challenges, two high school seniors, who work 40-hour weeks while attending classes full time, said they would have it no other way.

“It’s helping me with my goals because it is making me more responsible,” said 19-year-old Rebecca Williams of Brookland High School. “It is not just about me, but also other people. I need to think of others more than me.”

Rebecca and 18-year-old Stefanie Hickson of Jonesboro High School, are second-shift nursing assistants at the Craighead Nursing Center in Jonesboro.

“I’ve been working since 16 because my parents pushed me to work, do better and to be better,” Rebecca said. “I love my job, and I don’t see me leaving for a long time.”

It’s work both teens entered after taking a medical procedures/certified nursing assistant (CNA) course at Northeast Arkansas Career and Technical Center last fall.

The Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/1P91sdK ) reports that NEACTC began offering the course about eight years ago. Instructor Sondra Cline said it is a popular course that typically has a waiting list. Most students take it to see if it is a field they may want to enter.

There is a national shortage of CNAs because positions in that field must be filled 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Cline said. A lot of CNAs move on to nursing so there are openings constantly.

Cline’s course trains students as nursing assistants. Upon completion, students receive concurrent credit through Arkansas State University-Newport and are eligible to test for CNA licensure.

Rebecca and Stefanie plan to test for certification in February. They attend school from 7:50 a.m. to early afternoon, and then work from 2 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. They found their jobs through the class.

“They are more mature than most students because they are more independent, pay for their personal expenses, have established goals and know getting CNA licenses is one more step toward those goals,” Cline said.

While it is hard not having a lot of free time, Stefanie said it helps to work full time because she has lived on her own since age 17 - living independently has strengthened her relationship with her mom.

“I love working with people and hearing their funny stories. I am helping people out who are unable to help themselves,” she added. “I just got a new car, and I never thought I’d get one. It’s a good job for someone in high school, and they are willing to work with you.”

Stefanie is still deciding whether to attend nursing school or mortuary school. She said she has been around death her whole life, and she likes helping people deal with grief.

Her uncle is an embalmer. She said she lost her nephew when she was in fourth grade, her grandfather in fifth grade and her best friend in sixth grade.

Until she decides, Stefanie said she likes her current job, although it is the people she works with and for that make it even more enjoyable. Rebecca agreed.

“Once you walk into the building, you treat them like family,” Rebecca said.

Rebecca has always wanted to work in the health field. She said her grandmother is a licensed practical nurse while her mother is a respiratory therapist.

“I want to be there, help others and not let anything bad happen to them,” she added. “It is very challenging, stressful because you can make the wrong mistake and injure someone, but the people there want to help you to do better.”

Rebecca is planning to attend Black River Technical College to further her education in the field. She is considering work as an LPN or registered nurse and hopes to eventually work in surgery.

“I just want to make sure I help people,” she added. “That’s my main goal.”

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com

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