For Caleb May, becoming a certified nursing assistant is a step in the right direction.
"I want to be a dentist. When I saw this opportunity, I realized that this could be a start," said the A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School student. "Health care is the field I want to go into, so why not start here and work my way up."
The 17-year-old was one of 32 Johnson students who have passed the certified nursing assistant exam and were recognized during the inaugural pinning ceremony at the school May 20.
The school became an approved training and testing facility for the program last school year, said Ashley Brittain, the health care science instructor and the instructor.
"The nursing essentials class that I teach is based on the Georgia Department of Education curriculum, but the core foundations of that class correlates to the certified nursing assistant program," she said. "So, it was just a matter of going through the certification program with the state to be recognized as a training facility."
During the fall semester, the students participated in clinicals three days each week, and in the weeks leading to the exam they had clinicals four days a week, she said. They took the exam about two weeks ago.
"I'm extremely proud of these kids. It took a lot of hard work on their part, a lot of dedication," Brittain said. "They were there before school, after school and during breaks practicing for this. They were well-prepared because of their efforts."
Being certified is an advantage when they seek for jobs and apprenticeships, said Hillary Gaines, 17.
"There are not a lot of people in high school who can say 'I'm certified,' " she said. "We'll have a lot more opportunities because we can go out and actually practice out in the community. For us, that means we will be a step ahead."
Brittain said she hopes the students will use the accomplishment to jum-start their careers.
"Now that they have a CNA, they can go into any health care facility and get a job," she said. "For many of them, it's a way to help them fund their way through college or help them network and meet the right people who can help them further their education or further their career path."