CHERAW – It was another historical South Carolina moment in the making as 15 Agape Hospice Certified Nursing Assistants graduated from the first-ever health care related South Carolina Registered Apprenticeship Program on Jan. 25 at First United Methodist Church. The church is located at 117 Third St. where Rev. Dr. Paul Wood is the pastor.
As the graduates strolled slowly down the isle during the processional to the graduation march, “Pomp and Circumstance’, a feeling of high accomplishment and thankfulness filled the sanctuary.
Regional President of Agape Senior, Jimmie Williamson, Ph.D., along with CEO of Agape Hospice Senior, Rev. G. Scott Middleton, President of Northeastern Technical College, Dr. Ron Bartley, Ann Marie Steritz and Kevin McHugh, MSN, presented the graduates with their certificates from Northeastern Technical College.
In conjunction with the South Carolina Registered Apprenticeship program, Agape Senior/Agape Hospice strived continuously in 2009 to get this new and first program of its type in South Carolina off the ground, according to Williamson, regional president for the Pee Dee and Grand Strand Agape Senior and Agape Hospice.
“Agape Hospice, utilizing its partners, which include Northeastern Technical College in Cheraw and the Pee Dee Workforce Investment Board, chartered this new territory in 2009 with the development of the (first ever) health care related, registered apprenticeship in South Carolina,” said Williamson.
According to Williamson, the new graduates participated in an intensive 100-plus hour program specifically designed for hospice caregivers.
“All of our participants received instruction through Northeastern Technical College arranged instructors in various dimensions of the industry,” Williamson added.
The groundbreaking of the program was funded, in part, by the Pee Dee Workforce Investment Board’s Incumbent worker program, which is a program that helps with upgrading and improving employee’s skills in their existing jobs.
“What is so unique about this program is that it is nationally accredited and our Certified Nursing Assistants can use this accredited certificate no matter where they go. It is a win/win type program,” continued Williamson.
“Our Pee Dee model has now become the pilot for our statewide program. We are confident that this level of instruction will be just as significant and successful in the future as it is now,” said Williamson. “For every graduate in the program, we receive a $500 tax credit. We want to thank Sen. Vincent Sheheen, Rep. Ted Vick, Attorney Douglas Jennings and others who played a significant role in getting this program going. It represents that our state dollars are being spent wisely,” he continued.
During the ceremony, Middleton reminded the graduates that they are the first ever to be a part of a program that is now “a historical time” for Agape Hospice. “This is the first health care apprenticeship in South Carolina and you all are the first graduates of the program. We never stop learning,” he added.
Concluding, Williamson praised the graduates for going above and beyond their usual routine when faced with a dying patient in their care.
“I’ve seen these ladies in action working with some of Agape’s patients and the families of those patients. They all have gone the extra mile to provide comfort and professional care where necessary,” Williamson stressed.
The Certified Nursing Assistant Apprenticeship graduates are Elizabeth Allison, Jeraldine Bacote, Susan Bacote, Montina Bridges, Patsine Blount-Ferguson, Janice Goodman, Cortney Gulledge, Ethel McArthur, Mesha Malachi, Marilyn Marshall, Jacqueline Pouncy, Jacqueline Rodgers, Jo Ann Smith, Felicia Strong and Jinny Tucker.
The marshalls were Cindy Boles, administrator, PCC and Cindi Hurst, administrator, PCC.
Other participants in the event include organist, Shawna Quick, organist, Jon Kroepel, Rev. Doris B. Smith, invocation, welcome and introductions, James (Jimmie) C. Williamson, Ph.D., comments and Rev. Scott Middleton,
Rev. John Griggs, also of Agape Hospice, provided benediction and blessing.
Williamson also acknowledged Northeastern Technical College, the S.C. Technical College System and the Pee Dee Workforce Investment Board (WIA) who all worked together to make this new program a success.
A dinner with all the trimmings in the graduate’s honor was served in the church’s fellowship hall and catered by Rosalind Tucker Johnson, owner of String Beanz Catering.
For more information about Agape Hospice or the pilot program, call Jimmie Williamson, at 843-537-5454.