Ten students pinned as Certified Nurse Assistants

CNA graduates removed their masks for a moment for a group photo (L-R, Back row: Allied Health Teachers Maureen Baillargeon and Jacqueline Barcomb. Middle row: Audrey Blott, Olivia Friend, Nicole Marek, Kaitlyn Priest and Angie Oliyveska. Bottom Row: Veronika Borodina, Amanda Garstka, Alicia Rossi, Diana Panasyuk, and Christina Mosijchuk. (AMY PORTER/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

WESTFIELD – During a socially distanced ceremony on April 7, 10 students in the Allied Health program at Westfield Technical Academy (WTA) were honored for having successfully completed the Nurse Aide Training Program.

The students also passed the state’s written and practicum exams to become Certified Nurse Assistants (CNA). Honored were Audrey Blott, Veronika Borodina, Olivia Friend, Amanda Garstka, Nicole Marek, Christina Mosijchuk, Angelina Oliyevska, Diana Panasyuk, Kaitlyn Priest and Alicia Rossi.

The ceremony took on heightened meaning this year as the country and the world were reminded of the importance and sacrifice of caregivers. Keynote speaker at the ceremony, Armbrook Village Executive Director Beth Cardillo, noted that last year, CNAs took the place of families as they cared for their patients, many with COVID.

Cardillo credited the students for their perseverance and “the fact that you are still willing to be nurses aides, knowing what will be asked of you during a pandemic.” She encouraged them to climb the health care ladder, and to be the CNA “that lights up the room.”

CNA graduates march into the WTA auditorium past their families in attendance. (AMY PORTER/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

Allied Health Department Head Maureen Baillargeon said while the students finished their theory portion of the CNA program last year, due to the school closing, they had to wait for the Red Cross to resume testing of candidates to become CNA’s, which is normally conducted in June. Baillargeon said they were able to get a scheduled exam date on Feb. 22 of this year, and the students took their written tests and did the hands-on portion on a mannequin.

“Tensions were high, but all 10 of the seniors passed the exam,” Baillargeon said. She then spoke about each student before presenting them with a pin.

Audrey Blott participated in SkillsUSA in First Aid. She completed a gerontology class at Holyoke Community College (HCC) her junior year, and is in the WTA Cooperative Education program as a resident care aide at The Arbors of Westfield. Her plans are to go to Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) to join the Surgical Technologist Program, and to become a surgical physician’s assistant.

CNA graduate Audrey Blott pauses after receiving her pin. (AMY PORTER/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

Veronika Borodina played on the soccer team for three years, was a member of SkillsUSA and competed in the Nursing Assistant in the district competition She was inducted into the National Technical Honor Society her junior year. Borodina is in co-op at Armbrook Assisted Living as a resident care associate. Her plans are to attend STCC to become a diagnostic medical sonographer.

Olivia Friend played clarinet in the WTA band her freshman and sophomore years. She received First Honors her junior and senior year, and is currently working on her EKG technician curriculum. After high school, she would like to work at Baystate Noble as a patient care technician while she attends Westfield State University’s phlebotomy technician program, and completes a pharmacy technician training program.

Amanda Gartska played soccer and basketball all four years at WTA, becoming captain of the girls varsity basketball team her senior year. She is participating in co-op as a certified nursing assistant at Westfield Center. Her plans are to attend HCC in the health sciences field and continue working with children, towards a goal of becoming a pediatrician.

Nicole Marek was a member of the cross-country team and participates in competitive dance. She has been a member of SkillsUSA for three years, winning the silver medal in medical math in her sophomore and senior year, and will compete in the state competition at the end of April. She was inducted into the NTHS her junior year. She volunteered at the Baystate Children’s Specialty Center her freshman and sophomore years, and currently is employed at Dunkin’ Donuts. She plans to travel and take courses in nutrition.

Christina Mosijchuk played varsity soccer for four years, becoming co-captain her sophomore year and captain her junior and senior years. She also played flute and piano in band her freshman year. A member of SkillsUSA, she won the silver medal at districts on the Health Care Knowledge Bowl team her sophomore and junior year. She has been in the NTHS, received high honor roll her junior and senior years, and is ranked fifth in her class. She has completed seven college classes at HCC and Westfield State UNiversity (WSU) through dual enrollment, and hopes to work at Baystate Noble as a patient care technician while attending WSU, where she has been accepted into the biology program. She plans on becoming a physician’s assistant.

Angelina Oliyevska is in co-op as a resident care assistant at Armbrook Village. She has been in SkillsUSA in Basic Health Care, winning a bronze medal her junior year, and a silver medal this year, and will compete in the state competition at the end of April. She plans to attend STCC’s surgical technologist program, and plans on becoming a surgical nurse in the operating room.

Diana Panasyuk and Christina Mosijchuk light each other’s candles before reciting the CNA pledge. (AMY PORTER/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

Diana Panasyuk played soccer her sophomore year and participated in SkillsUSA in Nursing Assistant her junior year. She is currently finishing the EKG technician curriculum for her senior year. She participated in SkillsUSA, competing in Nursing Assistant at districts her junior year. She is currently employed at Armbrook Assisted Living as a resident care associate, and is planning to attend STCC to become a surgical technician.

Kaitlyn Priest has been a competitive dancer for 15 years, recently voted Senior Miss Elite at a competition. She has been captain of the WTA’s cheer team the past two seasons and a member of SkillsUSA for three years, placing silver at last year’s districts and gold this year in Basic Health Care. She will also compete at the state conference at the end of April. She is on co-op as a resident care associate at Armbrook Village, and has been accepted into American International College with a major in nursing. Her lifetime goal is to receive her RN and work in a hospital in the NICU or labor and delivery department.

Alicia Rossi is a member of the NTHS and received First Honors both her junior and senior year, also completing 11 hours of community service. She has participated in dual enrollment at HCC, earning credits in sociology. She formerly worked at Westfield Center as a CNA and is currently working with O’Connell’s Care at Home as a home health aide. She will go to STCC in the fall majoring in health sciences, and hopes to graduate from the dental hygiene program to become a dental hygienist.

Mosijchuk, who was chosen to represent the class as student speaker thanked the teachers, administrators, friends and families for their support. To her classmates, she said, “Never forget who you are.”

After receiving their pins and a bouquet, the students lit each other’s candles and recited the CNA pledge, promising to strive to conserve life, alleviate suffering and promote health while respecting the dignity and beliefs of the persons for whom they are caring.

Principal Joseph Langone, who started and ended the program, said he was “exceedingly proud. You give me hope as an educator and as a human being. You have chosen a vocation of service, in a world that is desperately in need of that, especially now,” Langone said, adding, “With gratitude and a great deal of joy, congratulations to all of you.”

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