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Oak Crossing offers school scholarships

Jennine Colby has a thing for taking care of the elderly. "Some people are good with babies, some are good in an emergency setting, this is my thing," she said from the Oak Crossing assisted living facility in Detroit Lakes, where she is an LPN. ...

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Jennine Colby (right) received a full scholarship through Oak Crossing to advance her career from CNA to LPN, a goal that the facility’s nursing director Laura Seleen, left, encouraged her to shoot for. She is one of 21 Oak Crossing employees to get the scholarship, which is provided through the Department of Human Resources. DETROIT LAKES TRIBUNE/Paula Quam

Jennine Colby has a thing for taking care of the elderly.

“Some people are good with babies, some are good in an emergency setting, this is my thing,” she said from the Oak Crossing assisted living facility in Detroit Lakes, where she is an LPN.

Colby can now call herself an LPN thanks in part to her own hard work, but also to her employers at Oak Crossing. Colby is the first staff member there to receive a full scholarship to advance her career from CNA to LPN.

“We paid it straight to the college - $3,000 per semester for her tuition, fees and books,” said Laura Seleen, director of nursing at Oak Crossing. She says they’ve had a lot of skills and potential among their CNAs and other staff over the years. “But not a lot of our staff have the funds to be able to go to school to advance their careers, and so we started looking at scholarship reimbursement opportunities that were out there.”

Seleen says the Department of Human Services happend to have some they could tap into.

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“But we were able to take it and tweak the policy a bit,” said Seleen, who says typically students are required to front the money for school, then try to get reimbursed.

“But we decided that we would pay that upfront to the college,” said Seleen, who says the prerequisites are that the person works at Oak Crossing at least 40 hours per pay period, be in good standing with the company and write an essay as to why they were applying for the scholarship.

“I went to school in ‘99 for the same thing but couldn’t finish because of financial issues,” said Colby, who wanted to go back but didn’t have the money.

“I had plenty of encouragement but not the financials. There was the mortgage payment and all the other bills that come along with living the adult life,” said Colby, who says when she found out her schooling would be paid for, it made the decision to go back a lot easier.

“This is where I want to be,” said Colby of geriatric care. “It’s where I love to be.”

“It takes a real special person to work in geriatrics,” said Seleen, who says like many healthcare fields, it can be tough to find qualified professionals for a field that’s just starting to see more of a need for the large baby boomer generation. “And so if we find that person with that passion, we want to keep them in long term care.”

Oak Crossing didn’t stop with Colby, either - she was only its first, receiving the scholarship in 2013. In 2014 and 2015, 10 employees each year went back to school through this program, earning their qualifications and education at no cost to them.

Although scholarship recipients are not required to commit to working at Oak Crossing after they get their degrees, Seleen says it’s always the hope they’ll at least stay within the Essentia organization. Like it has been for several years now, healthcare workers are in high demand nearly everywhere. Providing these scholarships and growing leadership from within seems to be a working remedy for both the recipients and Oak Crossing.

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“We end up getting a lot of good people just because it’s a good company to work for, but I think every setting of healthcare is experiencing these health care needs,” said Seleen. “And so if we can alleviate some of the financial burden for our employees to advance their career, we think that’s just great.”

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Paula Quam joined InForum as its managing digital editor in 2019. She grew up in Glyndon, Minnesota, just outside of Fargo.
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