For those from the Mars Hill area, the Grass family name may bring to mind a decades old institution - Grass Farms potatoes.
One member of the family, however, Sarah Grass, decided to explore life beyond potato farming and Aroostook County and found herself at the happiest place on earth, Walt Disney World.
The 2013 Central Aroostook Junior-Senior High School graduate earned a degree in communications sciences and disorders from the University of Maine in 2017. From there, she set off to Orlando, Florida, seeking warmer weather and big city living.
Going to Disney
Sarah literally became a princess – A Disney World princess – for a year and while Disney code doesn’t allow her to reveal who she played, Sarah answered, “Let it go, let it go,” when repeatedly asked.
Sarah liked the work, including a position at the Rain Forest Café. She especially enjoyed the vibe of being at one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations.
Eventually, though, she longed for actual Vacationland and came back to The County where she pursued her love of science and enrolled in a program that paid her a salary while she trained to be a Certified Nursing Assistant.
The “Earn While You Learn” program, held jointly by Maine Veterans’ Homes and School Administrative District 1’s Adult and Community Education Program, allows students to work/train at Maine Veterans’ Homes - Caribou while being paid.
Sarah was a member of the program’s first graduating class and has worked full time at the Home since.
Good For So Many
“The benefit of this program is two-fold,” said Home Administrator Melissa Graham. “These students – our future staff – know that we’re investing in their success by paying them while they train. It’s also beneficial to our residents who become familiar the students and look forward to having them as a consistent presence in their care.”
Sarah said the program was a great way to get her foot in the door at Maine Veterans’ Homes and learn more about the healthcare profession. “The residents at Maine Veterans’ Homes have played a big role in my success. I love seeing them every day and they make it so I love coming to work.”
Recruitment: Thinking Outside the Box
A CNA shortage throughout the county has led many health care providers to come up with innovative ways to attract people to the field, which is what motivated Maine Veterans’ Home to develop and offer the “Earn While You Learn” incentive at three of its six Homes.
Organizers of these courses report a greater success rate among Maine Veterans’ Homes students versus students who enroll in the program and try to hold down other jobs while training. They also report that students who train in Maine Veterans’ Homes develop stronger interpersonal skills with residents than those who don’t train there.
The program at MVH Caribou has motivated Sarah to attend a nursing program at Northern Maine Community College to pursue her ultimate goal of becoming a nurse practitioner.
She reflected on her time in Florida and said while she doesn’t regret a second of it, she’s happy to be back home. “The cold never bothered me anyway.”
Earn While You Learn
Maine Veterans’ Homes - Caribou is accepting applications for the “Earn While You Learn” program. For more information, contact Patty Cavagnaro in the Human Resources Department, firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-493-6202. All of our homes throughout the state are hiring; view openings.