In response to a community identified need, students in Carleton’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement Office (CCCE) developed a pathway for Carleton students to become licensed certified nurses assistants (CNA) through training with a local community partner. During the COVID pandemic, many of the CCCE’s local community partners struggled to fill their CNA positions due to mass labor shortages, especially in the healthcare and service industries. Through our conversations with these partners, it became apparent that there was an opportunity to collaborate for mutual benefit. The student-led Health and Belonging cohort spent months organizing this training opportunity. They researched partners and funding sources while handling the logistics to make this vision a reality. The CCCE looked for a model that would support both the student interest in this training and the increased community need for CNAs during the pandemic.
During the spring of 2022, the CCCE partnered with the Northfield Retirement Community to host training specifically for Carleton students. We supported 10 Carleton students in receiving their CNA training. For our pilot program, we prioritized juniors who responded to our query. They found the training and work very rewarding. “It helped me connect a lot with the elderly residents of the Rice County community, especially in addressing their needs and desire for company,” said Diana Kachman (’23) of her work experience as a CNA. Similarly, Alexa Kong (’23) reflected, “I feel as though I have been able to have a richer experience with my community in this way. It really feels as if I am doing something, rather than simply talking about it.”
“I think it is a great opportunity and should be run again. I have found the work at the retirement community interesting and rewarding. I would not have become a CNA without this program,” stated Michael Berler (’23). The CCCE is planning another phase of training. This year, we are looking to partner with Northfield Hospital and Clinics EMS and Education to offer CNA training for both Carleton and St Olaf students. Once certified, these students will have the option of working or volunteering in the community at the agency of their choice. CCCE collaborates with a number of partners in need of CNAs including Northfield Hospital, HealthFinders, Three Links, Northfield Retirement Community, and Laura Baker Services Association.