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Generous Gift Supports CNA Students

Zach and Chelsey Gray with their children.
Rebecca A. Eckland

Do you have a passion for helping others? Would you like to work in the medical industry? For the first time, TMCC is offering 20 scholarships to students in its Certified Nursing Assistant Program thanks to the generosity of Zach and Chelsey Gray, owners of Alta Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center, a 178-bed licensed skilled nursing facility in Reno. 

“I have an active CNA license and I am on the floor a few times a month because of how important the job is for caring for our residents,” said Chelsey Gray, who along with her husband Zachary Gray donated $10,000 for scholarships to support CNA students at TMCC.  “It's the position at Alta that gets to know the residents best and spend the most time with them.”

Since 2018, TMCC students have completed their clinical hours at the facility, which is one of many workplaces in which CNAs play a vital role. “Nursing assistants are the foundation of the workforce in skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes,” said Zachary Gray. “Yet, there’s a huge shortage of them, which has been exacerbated over the years because of stagnant wages.”

This year, Gray got a closer look at the reality of students seeking a career as a CNA or for nursing students who use the licensure to gain hands-on experience as they pursue another related degree (oftentimes in nursing.) “Zach took our CLS [phlebotomy] class,” said CNA Professor Susan Bluhm. “He needs CNAs like we all do, and so he asked how he could help these students out.” 

During the course of the semester in the CLS class, Gray had the opportunity to talk to students about their experiences both in and out of the classroom. “When you’re in middle or upper management, sometimes it’s hard to see the changes in the job market. One of the things that struck me, that I hadn’t really thought about, was that it costs a student over $1,000 to become a CNA at TMCC. That’s a lot of money. It seems like it should be easier to get access to that particular job [especially because we are in great need of them.] I mean, if you can go to McDonald’s or Starbucks and make similar wages without any barriers to entry, you should be able to assist students financially who want to be a CNA. We realized we were in a position to do exactly that,” he said. 

Thanks to the Gray’s generosity, sixteen CNA students enrolled in the program for Spring 2021 and four in the Summer of 2021 with a 2.0 GPA or higher will be eligible for a $500 scholarship.  In order to be eligible, students must also be a resident of Northern Nevada and intend to stay in Northern Nevada upon completion of the program.  The scholarship can be used for tuition and fees as well as books and supplies. 

“We benefit from having a community college around, so it occurred to us that it might be a nice thing to do to help the cohort of students pay for that CNA course, to make it easier and take some of the stress away for students...life is stressful enough.  We hope that this scholarship will help students get some stress off their plate,” said Gray, who in addition the donation, will continue to host clinical hours for CNA students, and offer employment opportunities to those who complete the CNA program. 

Although the job isn’t easy, Gray explained that working in long-term care can be a viable career option for students who want to continue their education: it’s a job that is always available (care is needed for 365 days and 24-hours a day) so finding a flexible schedule that works for you is entirely possible.  

It’s also a great way to meet really interesting people because, let’s face it: everybody ages. “Working as a CNA in a long-term care facility is a really great experience, whether you do it for a couple of months or a couple of years,” said Gray. “You will meet interesting people, and your character will definitely grow.” 

In addition to the scholarship, the Grays also support students who continue their education through an incentive program for those who work at Alta Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center. For employees who are also full-time nursing students, the Grays pay up to $500 per semester to help them offset the cost of tuition, books, or supplies.

“It’s awesome to have students around. They are interesting...but more importantly, they are interested in learning and doing a good job,” said Gray. 

So, if you’ve been dreaming of a way to get into the medical industry and to gain valuable experience along the way, this opportunity to get your foot in the door with TMCC’s CNA program could be your ticket to a rewarding career that will make a positive difference in the lives of others. 

For more information about the Certified Nursing Assistant Program, contact the department at 775-824-8640.