Gerri Landscape

Retiree reaches lifelong goal of helping others

It’s never too late to achieve your goals. Take Gerri, for example. In the sixth grade, back in 1967, she knew she wanted to be a Certified Nursing Aide. Now, at the age of 65, she can cross that off her list.

Back in January, Gerri enrolled in the Certified Nursing Aide (CNA) FastForward training program at Mountain Empire Community College. She started classes alongside her full-time job as the activities director at NOVA Health and Rehabilitation Center, where she helped keep residents engaged through movement. It was here she learned about the true value and impact a CNA could have on a patient’s quality of life.

Gerri juggled work and classes, with perfect attendance – that is, until COVID-19 hit. Classes paused, she retired in June but went part-time. Gerri shifted her role to COVID-19 screenings and the stress of it all was tough.

“Completing the program during the pandemic was one of the biggest challenges,” Gerri said. “It was stressful and it took nine or 10 months compared to the original three the program was scheduled for. I started to question if going into long term care was worth it, but I wanted to put the elderly first. Hearing their stories, seeing their smiles, makes it worth it.”

Thinking of the faces of her future patients is an excellent motivator, but if it was not for the funding and support from the FastForward program, enrolling in training would not have been possible.

“I would not have been able to achieve my goal and cross this off my bucket list if not for the funding from FastForward,” she said. “I have mentioned the program to members of the community, to family and friends. It is a wonderful program.”

In addition to funding that helps bring your out-of-pocket down greatly (in some cases, less than $100), you also learn from instructors who create an engaging experience.

“I had an awesome instructor. She was hands-on, patient and explained things in a clear way. She was a teacher, a friend, I just love her to death,” Gerri said. Gerri also described a time when she and her classmates wrestled with a mannequin to put a compression sock on it, but we’ll let you dream up those visuals.

Gerri is a prime example of pursuing a passion and reaching lifelong goals, no matter what challenges may arise. And lucky for her, she’s been able to have a study buddy through it all with her granddaughter Ashley at her side. They plan on taking their boards to earn their Certified Nursing Aide certification together.

If you want to be like Gerri, reach out to your local FastForward Career Coach and see what options are available online and in-person.