Caring for others in need

It took Aric Hessian 24 years to enroll in a post-secondary institution. Now, as he looks back at his time in the Certified Nursing Assistant program at Blackhawk Technical College, he wonders what took him so long.

After finishing high school, Hessian, 48, worked in the construction business and later with a medical equipment provider. In that span, he faced the traumatic times of dealing with his wife’s breast cancer, which would take her life, and caring for two daughters.

Hessian, who was laid off from the medical equipment firm, then took a placement assessment test which pointed him in two directions – kindergarten teacher or nurse. In August of 2008, he went through Blackhawk’s admission process and he eventually enrolled in the CNA program the following January.

Now, Hessian finds himself working in the memory care unit at Cedar View Health Center in Janesville and preparing for the next steps in his pursuit of a nursing degree.

“One of the main reasons I chose BTC was Lucy Olson, a CNA instructor who took the time to answer my questions and concerns with very great interest,’’ Hessian said recently. “This has been my experience with many of the teachers at BTC. They will help you succeed and they were always available to help me get the information right or help me see where I may have gone wrong. They were always encouraging, supportive and understanding.’’

The transition to a technical college routine was not necessarily easy for Hessian. He was working full time and carrying a full course load, which placed great demands on his time. Also, he was back in an educational environment for the first time in a long time, and the adjustment to studying, completing projects and doing homework was taxing.

“I realized I just had to suck it up and try my best,’’ he recalled. “It was a little rough to start because I had to develop study habits and make time to get the homework done on time after almost 30 years of not doing that.’’

He eventually found assistance from the Student Services division of BTC.

“I wish I had taken their student success programs sooner because it was very helpful,’’ he explained. “Many of the tips I learned I had already incorporated through my own trial and error.

“My advice to those who face the same kind of questions I faced is to come to school and ask those questions to the very people who have been there before and who can advise them well.’’

Now, while working at Cedar View, he is beginning to study for his Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS), which he is required to take to be admitted to nursing school. He also is preparing to go through the petition process to be admitted to the clinical segment of the nursing program.

This piece was written by Vic Feuerherd, the Public Relations Specialist at Blackhawk Technical College. You can contact Vic at or at (608) 757-6322.