Smith Voc welcomes GCC to campus

  • Greenfield Community College’s new program on the campus of Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz speaks at a press conference announcing a new cooperative between Greenfield Community College, Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, Westfield State University and Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

For the Gazette
Published: 12/1/2017 11:04:27 PM

NORTHAMPTON — In a cooperation among four institutions — Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, Greenfield Community College, Westfield State University and Cooley Dickinson Hospital — students in the area will now have the opportunity for a more streamlined process for acquiring degrees, and eventually a local job in nursing.

On Friday, representatives from these institutions presented their new agreement in an effort to keep the state of nursing and health care in the area up to par.

“One of criticisms of higher education around the country is that folks tend to work in silos,” Greenfield Community College President Bob Pura said at a press conference Friday morning. “Today is such a contradiction to that national narrative.”

For more than two decades, the college has been offering its Licensed Practical Nursing Program in Hampshire County, originally located at Smith Vocational High School. It then moved to other locations such as the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds and leased space in Florence. The program is now back on the Smith Vocational campus is a recently renovated building.

A new educational collaboration with nearby Westfield State will make use of the facility by holding classes there. The GCC-Westfield State agreement will allow GCC associate degree registered nurse graduates to transfer credits to Westfield State, giving them a chance to complete their bachelor’s degree in one additional year of schooling.

Having the GCC-LPN program located on the Smith Vocational campus may help graduates of the high school’s certified nursing assistant program visualize a pathway to nursing school.

“I think it will really give our students that direction and that vision that there’s more to life,” said Andrew Linkenhoker, superintendent of Smith Vocational. “When they walk into the LPN program, they’ll be one step ahead of traditional students.”

Many graduates of GCC’s 10-month LPN program go on to get their associate degree in nursing through the Greenfield campus RN program. Through that GCC program, students can then transfer credits and go on to Westfield State University, picking up an additional credential with a Bachelor of Science, registered nurse degree. This is often needed for those who want to work in acute care at a hospital.

“The beauty of this program is that a GCC student will be able to transfer up,” to the university, Westfield State University President Ramon Torrecilha said, noting a student could transfer in as many as 90 of their 120 AA nursing degree credits. He touted the program as the most affordable of its kind in the region.

Additionally, those GCC students who become registered nurses will have an easier path to work at Cooley Dickinson, and some of those RNs might have started their training next door on the Smith Vocational campus.

“I can’t wait to see some more graduates so that we can offer them some jobs,” said Anthony Scibelli, vice president of Cooley Dickinson. “Welcome to the neighborhood.”

The program received state money to help establish it. Local elected officials touted the commitment to the community and health care in the region. Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz lauded the agreement and the work that Pura has put in over the last couple of years to help create this program.

Similarly, state Rep. Peter Kocot, D-Northampton, said he looks forward to how this relationship can help the area.

“This program is going to be a launching pad for success for so many people and it’s going to make sure my constituents have quality health care,” Kocot said.

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