COA nursing students awarded Susan K. Preston scholarship

Published 4:50 pm Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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On Feb. 12, nine students from the College of The Albemarle received the Susan K. Preston Scholarship on behalf of North Banks Rotary, GEM Day Services, COA and Noel Preston. These students are part of the Nurse Aide program at COA and have assisted patients dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

These students were part of the first class having completed 35 hours of intensive training in learning to become “Dementia Capable” in person-centered dementia care. The recipients and their family and friends gathered at the Baum Center for an award ceremony.

The ceremony was led by Gail Sonnesso, founder and executive director of GEM. Sonnesso has been working closely with these students during her GEM programs. These programs are meant to provide some relief to caretakers and engage dementia patients in fun arts, crafts and games on a weekly basis.

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Dare County commissioner Rob Ross was present at the award ceremony to congratulate the students on their achievements. He mentioned that his father resides at Spring Arbor and is dealing with dementia. Ross said he has witnessed the work these students do first-hand: “It’s just amazing to watch the patience, care, consideration and no loss of temper.”

Noel Preston, husband of Susan Preston, said that Susan would have really appreciated what the students are doing for their community. “She was a lady of service,” he noted. The scholarship the students received was in honor of Susan, who had suffered from dementia.

Preston and North Banks Rotary representative Rob Holmes, both of whom contributed to make this $5,000 scholarship possible, awarded the certificates and scholarships to the students. Recipients included Lindsay Brothers, Ana Figiel Gates, Olga Gauss, Margaret Holland, Shanese Jackson, Monalisa MacAriola, Vickie O’Connor, Chelsea Pettit and Taka Stevenson.

The students shared some testimonials on what they had learned throughout the program. “It’s not an easy job; you have to prepare yourself mentally, but it was very rewarding,” Gauss said. Stevenson added, “The most important thing that I learned is patience. Patience and understanding.” Figiel said the program “really helped me in my current job at Spring Arbor and will really help me in my career.”

The Susan K. Preston scholarship helps to offset fees in the beginning of the course and as the students graduate, they receive the remaining funds. Amy Alcocer, executive director at COA, said this is the quickest turnaround time she has seen for a scholarship in her time at COA.



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