All 57 nursing assistant students at Whiteside Area Career Center pass state exam

Other programs in state have 100% pass rate, but WACC’s was with a class of exceptional size

Jessie Houzenga, Carrie Widolff, and Sheila Fane are the Whiteside Area Career Center instructors who saw that 100% of this year's class passed the state exam.

STERLING – For more than 30 years, the Whiteside Area Career Center has been preparing certified nursing assistants for the workplace.

That’s a proven track record.

However, something pretty remarkable happened this year, said Josh Johnson, director of the career center.

He said each one of the center’s 57 students enrolled in the program passed the CNA exam, which is administered by Southern Illinois University at Carbondale on behalf of the state.

“Other programs around the state do achieve 100% pass rate, but the size of our program to achieve this feat is what makes it monumental,” Johnson said.

The program is open to juniors and seniors from 18 school districts across the region.

“Many of our graduates will enter the field directly out of our program,” Johnson said. “However, many also go on to our other health sciences program where they learn medical terminology and earn a phlebotomy certificate.”

He also said that many students will work as a CNA while studying for a higher degree. Students have advanced in their careers to become registered nurses, doctors or specialist technicians in the medical field.

Johnson said WACC has had 100% certification in a class before, but it’s been several years since it occurred. It’s the number enrolled in the class that sets this year apart.

The medical profession is in “dire need” of nursing assistants, Johnson said.

As an example, Resthave Care and Rehabilitation Center in Morrison issued a news release heralding the achievement.

“Resthave would like to applaud WACC’s students and staff for their monumental achievement,” WACC marketing director Karla Burn said in a news release.

Johnson said What makes having such a large class possible is employing multiple instructors. In that respect, Johnson said partners are Citadel of Sterling, Exceptional Care of Sterling and CGH Medical Center.

Present staffing is such the center could have a class as large as 72 students. Sheila Fane is the main instructor, and has been in the district for four years. Jessie Houzenga is the program coordinator and Carrie Widolff is also CNA staff trainer.

“They have been able to create a wonderful learning environment where all students are encouraged to succeed,” Johnson said.

Section 1 of Whiteside Area Career Center's nursing assistant class. Front row, from left, Hailey Greenfield, Katie Hutchison, Lily Mullen, Taylor Swanstrom, Jenica Stoner, Lily Searing, Lauren Wambergue; Back row, instructor Jessie Houzenga, Bailey Dykstra, Madi Zipse, Ella Ingram, Jasmine Walker, Sarah Kempel, Annaka Hackett, Shelby Veltrop, Max Pasch, Allica Simpson, Jaden Rathburn, and instructor Sheila Fane.
Section 2 of the nursing assistant class at Whiteside Area Career Center. Front row, from left, Aubrie Kozak, Marbella Alvarez, Ashlynne Hansen, Violet Widolff; middle row, Emily LeTourneau, Amara Thomas, Brooke Becker, Denali Stonitsch, Molly Hackbarth, Emma Crebo, Erin Ward; back row, instructor Jessie Houzenga, Natalie Buck, Ashely Cadie, Sophia Moeller, Zoe Morgan, Grace Boostrom, Azbie Azemi, Paetyn Adams, Bayli Baker Dunlap, Hailey Kuciver, Madie Calderon, Veronica Wade, Kaelynn Burgess, and instructor Sheila Fane
Section 3 of the Whiteside Area Career Center nursing assistant class. Front row, from left, Maeve Larson, Madison O'Malley, Kennedy Rowzee, Addison Foster, Connie Gibson, Ellie Rude, Maddy Duhon, Izzy Allen; top row, instructor Jessie Houzenga, Sophia Ely, Elizabeth Hinton, Molly Olson, Alexa Morris, Zoey Harrington, Julia Rhodes, Taylor Rowland, Layne Sproston, Lynzie Cady, and instructor Sheila Fane
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Troy Taylor

Troy E. Taylor

Was named editor for and the Gazette and Telegraph in 2021. An Illinois native, he has been a reporter or editor in daily newspapers since 1989.