L to R: Lelah Christiansen, Shanitra Reed, Samantha Gonzales, Melonie Rodriguez, Gina Mancha

Five women put on red caps and gowns, sharing smiles and stories about the past 18 weeks they experienced together. They are the first students to complete and graduate the Sterile Processing Registered Apprenticeship program: Lelah Christiansen, Samantha Gonzales, Gina Mancha, Shanitra Reed and Melonie Rodriguez.

Week-by-week they learned the skills needed for a successful career in the health care industry. And, piece-by-piece they refined the art (and science) of cleaning, sterilizing and assembling surgical parts.

“I’ve always wanted to get back into health care, and this job was the perfect fit for me,” said Samantha Gonzales.

Gonzales was a housekeeper at Holland Hospital when she learned about the program. She applied, knowing the program could give her the ability to advance her career but little else about the job. After starting the apprenticeship, she realized quickly the job matches her skills and abilities well.

“I love interacting with co-workers throughout the hospital and working under pressure. I plan on building a career out of this job,” Gonzales said.

A new future

Gina Mancha was laid off from her career and was too young to retire. This program gave her a new set of skills to start a second career.

“We all took this class for the better, no matter what that is- better job, better schedule, better life,” Mancha said. “We were determined and ambitious.”

Students received instruction from Grand Rapids Community College, as well as hands-on experience at a local hospital: Spectrum Health, Holland Hospital, Metro Health or  Mercy Health.

“You just changed the narrative of your life, your childrens’ lives and grandchildrens’ lives,” said Amy Mansfield, dean of GRCC.

Mancha left quickly after the ceremony ended. She had a job to start.

Samantha Gonzalez

Gina Mancha

Gina Mancha