School at Work helps graduates achieve their dream careers

By Amanda Tonoli


Two School at Work graduates have received scholarships to Mercy College to continue their dreams of being registered nurses.

Luz Castillo, a single mother of two teenage boys, and Ensley Thomas, a father of three children, are both St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital patient-care associates and will soon be Mercy College students on the path to their dream careers.

“I just like to help other people,” Castillo said simply. “You have to like it to want to go into nursing.”

Thomas echoed Castillo’s sentiment.

“I love talking with the patients,” he said. “They feel comfortable talking to me about a lot of things, and I just feel blessed about that – that’s like God’s gift.”

School at Work is a program that helps Mercy Health invest in its employees by combining education with career planning to get individuals to higher-paying positions.

“It’s a six-month educational enrichment program for employees who want to advance,” said Georgette Peters, School at Work facilitator and learning coach.

Investing in employees who want to advance is important from a Mercy Health perspective, added Paul Homick, Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley president.

“It shows that we value and view our employees as our most important assets,” he said.

Both Castillo and Thomas recently completed School at Work and graduated from Eastern Gateway Community College. They will begin Mercy College in a few weeks – both on scholarships. Castillo was awarded a $1,000 Mercy Health Foundation Scholarship, and Thomas was awarded a Wolves Club Scholarship and the Men in Nursing Scholarship totaling $2,750.

Seeing students such as Castillo and Thomas succeed drives School at Work facilitators to keep doing what they do.

“Seeing where our students are today, I could cry,” Peters said. “We really provide wraparound services – we just don’t lose track of them after they graduate; we keep up with them providing what they need every step of the way.”

Castillo said with Peters’ encouragement, she is achieving her dream job.

As a native Spanish speaker, she was unsure if she could ever become a registered nurse, but she has passed the first part of her schooling with a 4.0 grade-point average.

The challenge is one facet that drives Thomas.

“To me, it’s about helping me advance to a whole other level of a challenging position, and I’m always up for any type of challenge,” he said. “Now the challenge is to continue striving and making Mercy Health the best business this area has to offer.”

It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to be in a position to help students reach their potential, Homick said.

“It’s incredibly gratifying being able to support our employees and help Mercy provide great, passionate care,” he said. “We support the work of our hospitals, and these two folks are outstanding individuals that will continue to help us provide a solid, great future.”

For information about the School at Work program, contact Peters at 330-301-1782.

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