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Hillsdale Hos­pital Collegian|Josephine Von Dohlen

Since 2001, Hillsdale Hos­pital has awarded over $3 million in tuition assis­tance to over 48 Hillsdale County high school stu­dents with aspi­ra­tions of becoming reg­is­tered nurses.

Hillsdale County high school stu­dents inter­ested in nursing school can apply to the hos­pital for tuition assis­tance. If accepted, the hos­pital will help with expenses of col­leges in and outside of Hillsdale, with the oblig­ation that stu­dents return to Hillsdale and work for the hos­pital for four years.Judy Gabriele, director of devel­opment at Hillsdale Hos­pital, explained that the program is designed not only to help aspiring nurses reach their goal, but also to increase the presence of reg­is­tered nurses in the county.

“We decided it would be best to start training and sending people to schools that wanted stay in the com­munity,” Gabriele said. “Throughout inter­views, we are inter­ested in stu­dents who present them­selves as having family here, and wanting to work here, live here, and be around family. We know those are the ones for us.”  

Gabriele said that in the early 2000s, the hos­pital was inun­dated with sta­tistics sug­gesting that there would be a wide­spread scarcity of reg­is­tered nurses in the greater Hillsdale area.  Healthcare providers are still one of the top 25 most needed pro­fes­sional groups in the nation,

according to the Brooke Ballee-Stone, super­visor of the Jackson Career Center. The Center partners with Hilldale Hos­pital to spread awareness about their tuition program.

“Kids always say they want to leave the city they grew up in. They want to spread their wings and go,” Ballee-Stone said. “One of the things it think this program really does, is it helps kids to see that it is really cool to give back to the com­munity instead of going some­where else to work.”

Ballee-Stone said that a lot of stu­dents who come to the Career Center for its Cer­tified Nursing Assistant program, hear about the tuition exchange through the Center, and imme­di­ately want to apply.

“We work together. That’s what you see about Hillsdale, everyone seems to work together and pitch in together,” Ballee-Stone said. “But the hos­pital sup­plies the money, which is absolutely amazing.”

When asked about success cases, both Gabriele and Ballee-Stone recalled the same student’s story. A Hillsdale high school graduate applied to the program last year, whose mother and both maternal and paternal grand­mothers, worked as nurses in Hillsdale. Her dream was to work alongside them. Hillsdale Hos­pital accepted her to the program, and now she has the capa­bility to realize that aspi­ration.

“I thought that was so cool,” Ballee-Stone said. “The program does a whole lot of good espe­cially for those kids who can’t afford to go, and to foster that com­munity. Its bringing Hillsdale back, by giving back to the com­munity.”