GEM partners with COA Foundation to fund scholarship for students in nurse aide program

Published 10:51 pm Tuesday, October 8, 2019

On Wednesday, Sept. 25, GEM Day Service, Inc. and the College of The Albemarle teamed up to sign a memorandum of understanding for the new Susan K. Preston Scholarship. This $5,000 scholarship will be awarded to students enrolled in COA’s nurse aide program. The funded grant money from North Banks Rotary will cover registration fees of scholarship recipients.

Susan K. Preston was a Dare County Master Gardner and a volunteer with Outer Banks Hotline. Susan and her husband, Rear Adm. (retired) Noel Preston, moved to Kitty Hawk after years of traveling the world. Susan suffered from frontotemporal dementia towards the end of her life.

Noel was present at the signing to honor his wife. While taking Susan back and forth to her doctor check-ups, he had worked with Gail Sonnesso, founder and executive director of GEM. “I learned more from Gail about providing care than I did from any of the renowned centers of excellence for dementia,” he said.

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Sonnesso reached out to Amy Alcocer, COA Foundation executive director, to make this scholarship possible. Along with her husband Angelo Sonnesso, president of GEM, Gail has been working with patients since 1981. She founded GEM as a community-based non-profit in 1997. Her overall vision was to “provide a pleasant place for people with dementia along with their caregivers.” After helping people like Susan and Noel Preston, Gail has seen her program working and wants that perseverance to carry through in future caregivers.

Gail Angelo Sonnesso and Catherine Pfendler, GEM board member, were all present to sign the newly inducted scholarship. $135 of the scholarship will be given to recipients upfront to cover the cost of registration. The remainder will be awarded upon completion of the courses at graduation.



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