Penn State Berks graduates Class of 2021 practical nurses

Written by Lisa R. Baldi, Director of Strategic Communications at Penn State Berks.

Francian Cooke’s interest in nursing began when she was growing up in Jamaica and caring for her terminally ill father. On Friday, December 17, her dream was realized when Cooke graduated from Penn State practical nursing program at Penn State Berks.

Cooke’s journey took a few twists and turns along the way. After her father’s death, she emigrated to England and earned a degree in travel and tourism, and then worked in that industry both in Great Brittan and Jamaica. Then she decided to join her siblings living in the United States.

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Cooke moved to southeastern Pennsylvania in 2015, and while looking for new career opportunities, her passion for caring of others resurfaced. She enrolled in a nursing program but encountered child care so she eventually withdrew from that program. Cooke decided to regroup and move to Reading after researching the Penn State practical nursing program at Penn State Berks; she knew she had to have a plan and strategy to achieve success this time around. She earned her degree and became a U.S. citizen last fall.

“I’ve learned that hard work, dedication, and strong will is the recipe for success,” comments Cooke. “Thanks to the wonderful team involved with the Penn State nursing program and Mrs. Frantz who opened my eyes to what nursing is all about.”

This is just one of the stories of the nine students who began their studies in August 2020, and worked for 18-months, both in the classroom and at various clinical facilities in the area.

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The part-time evening and weekend practical nursing program is unique from other nursing programs because it allows students to keep their day jobs: They attend class three evenings a week, as well as every other weekend, and achieve their dream of becoming a nurse in just 18 months. Upon completion of the program, students will be able to take the National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nursing (NCLEX-PN) for state licensure.

In partnership with Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Reading campus, practical nursing students have access to their nursing simulation lab, offering a learning environment that mimics real-life clinical scenarios. The lab features electronic mannequins and clinical program applications to augment clinical skills, improve patient outcomes, enhance clinical competence and increase clinical teamwork.

The State Board of Nursing approved the Penn State Berks Practical Nursing Program as a satellite of the Penn State Lehigh Valley Practical Nursing Program.

Nine students earned their certificates in practical nursing including Monica C. Caba, Joan Chavez, Francian Cooke, Marleigh Cressley-Lipinski, Katherine M. Garcia, Cynthia Green-Becker, Amanda R. Leber, Paige E. Manegold and Rachel L. Randall.

Louise Frantz, the Penn State Berks Nursing Coordinator, was keynote speaker for the event. During the ceremony, students received their certificates and pins to signify successful completion of the program. Some members of the graduating class also earned special recognition with an award.

Joan Chavez received the Excellence in Clinical Practice award, presented to the student who best displays a high regard for clinical care and clinical aptitude.

Paige Manegold received the Leadership Award, presented to the student who best displays outstanding leadership and professionalism during the nursing education process.

Monica Caba received the Continuing Education Award, presented to the student who embodies the spirit, commitment and dedication to higher education.

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