Four years ago we began our quest for a licensed practical nurse program for the Island to help staff Windemere and the hospital. Our dream was to provide an opportunity for our incredible staff in their educational pursuits.

We needed a program, location, funding and an instructor. We contacted the Nathan Mayhew Seminars. Dr. Lorna Andrade and Al Daniels shared our dream. They supported our initial efforts to find a program and funding for the program. We ran into a number of roadblocks. We were turned down on our first grant application and an off-Island program backed out, putting us back at square one.

Three years ago it started to come together. Carolyn Blanks from the Massachusetts Extended Care Federation put us in touch with David Augustinho at the Cape & Islands Workforce Investment Board. David met with us and set up a meeting with Michael Corcoran at the Department of Workforce Development, who helped us with a grant application for an LPN program on the Island. We had the support of SEIU. And our Cape & Islands state Sen. Rob O’Leary fought for us on our grant application.

In February of 2007 state Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Suzanne Bump notified us of a grant award for $100,000 for our LPN program.

Next, we found Kevin Farr, superintendent and Patricia Gales, director of the practical nursing program at Upper Cape Cod Regional Tech, who made a commitment to locate a program on the Island. Our next crisis was location. Peg Regan and the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School provided classroom space for the program. But we still needed an instructor. It was coming down to the wire! Deb Herlihy stepped up to the plate, shared our vision, and committed to relocating from her Plymouth home to the Island in order to teach the ten-month program.

Our LPN program turned into an international program when we had an application from North Carolina. We had a diverse group of students, ranging in age from 21 to 56. We even had a mother-daughter duo.

We began with nine enthusiastic students who balanced their education, work and family lives. Windemere’s CNA staff covered the student’s shifts. Windemere, the hospital, Vineyard Pediatrics and Vineyard Nursing Association served as on-Island clinical sites. Windemere’s Marie Zadeh, director of nursing, and Marie Araujo, nursing supervisor, both served as mentors, meeting regularly with the students. Again, balancing education, work and family. The students and instructor also went off-Island for additional clinical training for over eight weeks, adding to the challenge.

Families, spouses, kids and parents all were incredibly supportive. Let’s hear it for the families!

This Island program truly took a village to make it happen.

To the graduates: it has been a long journey. You have studied hard and worked hard. Your dreams have come true. We are thrilled that soon we will be seeing you at our nursing home and the hospital taking care of our Island residents.

Good luck and congratulations. And, as Tim Russert would say, go get ’em!


Ken Chisholm is director of human resources at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. This is an edited version of his commencement address for the licensed practical nurse program, delivered on June 20 at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs.