The rain and dipping temperatures on Thursday, June 20 were not daunting enough to keep the crowds away from Ithaca High School’s Kulp Auditorium, the venue for the Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES Career and Tech Center’s sixth annual completer and awards ceremony.
Groton High School was well represented that evening, with 22 out of 141 students there to receive their CTE Completer certificates. There was a plethora of awards and scholarships handed out, with the crowning touch of glory being the Rotary Clubs of Tompkins County CTE Student of the Year award, which comes with a $1,000 cash award.
GHS senior Taylor Thompson, a student in the Nurse Assisting and Health Occupations program, was one of five students nominated by their CTE teachers from among the nine component schools within the BOCES to contend for this most distinguished award, but Thompson emerged the winner.
Thompson was nominated by Frances Horner, the NAHO teacher.
“I have had the pleasure of teaching Taylor for the past two years and have watched her grow into a true professional,” Horner said. “She is a very caring individual, is honest and shows a lot of integrity. She is motivated and has good attendance. She excels within her clinical practice and in the lab setting.”
Thompson has received the Greatest Achiever Award for each of her years in the program, and will be earning a nursing assistant certification, home health aide certification and her phlebotomy certification after completion, as well as nine college credits from Tompkins Cortland Community College. She is also first aid and CPR certified.
During the past two years, Thompson has become a member of Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) and the National Technical Honor Society. She is currently employed at Groton Nursing Facility as a support aide. She has been on the high honor roll at GHS since ninth grade and received several student-athlete awards for her amazing soccer skills.
Thompson said she entered the CNA program not really knowing whether she would like it. The thought of forming new relationships and branching out from her home school was scary for her.
As it turned out, “It was the best decision I’ve made so far,” Thompson said. Choosing the winner of the CTE Student of the Year is not an easy choice to make for the ad hoc committee that diligently interviews each student, but the real “litmus test” always comes down to who truly had their life turned around as a result of the CTE Center.
Given that criteria, it is easy to see why Thompson rose to the proverbial “top of the heap,” and her story bears telling to anyone who may have similar struggles in life.
“High school is certainly difficult enough, but sprinkle depression and anxiety on top, it then makes high school much more difficult,” Thompson said. “Ever since the eighth grade, I’ve struggled with self-esteem issues and having extreme mood changes. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to deal with it. I resorted to self-harm. Sadly, it was the only sense that felt real to me.”
Thompson said everything started to change once she enrolled in the CNA program at TST BOCES.
“This program showed me the reward of helping others,” Thompson said. “Making other people feel good made me feel incredible; that’s what kept me going.”
Thompson also said she has learned that being a CNA is a very demanding job and nobody wants to do the “dirty work” that comes along with it, but people do not ever think about the reward.
“Doing tasks for a person who physically can’t do them makes it that much more important that you do,” Thompson said. “I love going into the nursing home and helping someone with the simplest of tasks, such as getting dressed for the day or brushing their hair. It was delightful to see how grateful they were for my help. I now appreciate the little things in life such as me being able to feed myself, get myself dressed and being able to get out of bed without any help.”
Thompson said she values her CTE program because it has made her a more compassionate person and made her think twice about all the things in life. Many of the people she cares for do not realize how much they are helping her along the way, she said.
“This program helped spark a fire inside of me that will never be extinguished,” she said. “I think back to my dark times, when I hated being with myself, when I avoided looking in the mirror, and I think of how far I’ve come. I’ve learned how to juggle dealing with mental health issues, working 16 hours a week, and still managed to make it on high honor roll for the past two years and becoming a member of National Technical Honor Society.”
In addition, she has played varsity soccer for the past four years and was the first team all-star for three of those years. Thompson said she feels amazing for her win. “I am so proud of her and all her accomplishments,” her mother, Nicole Thompson, said. “I am just so happy for her.”
Other awards and scholarships were in abundance at the ceremony, and these Groton students were among the recipients: Sebastian Mikula, culinary arts, received the Teacher Award, while both Nicholas Côté, welding, and Taylor Thompson, nurse assisting and health occupations, were each awarded the Greatest Achiever Award in their respective classes.
One student from each CTE program is selected to receive the Greatest Achiever Award for their class. This student must attain an overall average of at least 90%, have excellent attendance and demonstrate class leadership.
Similarly, one student per program is selected to receive the Teacher Award for their class. That student must have a strong work ethic and excellent attendance record and have been an active class participant throughout the year.
Mikula was also the recipient of the Anthony R. Dilucci Scholarship. Katelyn Sill, nurse assisting and health occupations, was awarded the Teachers’ Association Scholarship, and Thomas McDougal, auto technology, received the Rotary Club of Groton Scholarship.
Groton on the Inside appears weekly. Submit news ideas to Linda Competillo, email@example.com or 607-227-4922.
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