QUINCY -- Sitting in a room at St. Vincent's Home on either side of Vivian McCall, Quincy High School students Lauren Kroeger and Emma Sparrow work to clean her nails.
Not far away, QHS student Kaiya Ahern touches up a morning shave for Virgil Goehl, with the St. Vincent resident providing some helpful tips for handling the electric razor.
"Put more pressure on it. It will cut the whiskers," Goehl said.
"It's like taking care of a relative. You want to give the best care," Ahern said. "It makes me feel better that I can help somebody else."
Clinical work two days a week to hone skills learned in the classroom is part of the training process for certified nurse assistant certification for students in Dana Trantor's health occupations class at Quincy Area Vocational Technical Center.
For the home's residents, "it's just nice to see some young kids once in a while," McCall said.
Students cleaned McCall's dentures and her mouth before working on her nails while keeping up a steady stream of conversation.
"I just like getting the experience. It's hands-on," said Kroeger, a QHS senior. "It's very different from what you'd think learning in class. It's good to learn to think on your feet."
Becoming a CNA opens doors not only to part-time employment while still in high school but to a variety of careers in health care.
"It gives them a good foundation for future health professions and for daily living skills because obviously in our life we're going to care for someone, even ourselves. They learn a lot about basic caregiving skills," Trantor said.
"They also learn about medical terminology that can be used in other areas and the importance of being a quality health care worker and team member, which leads to good communication skills."
Clinical hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays build communication skills both with fellow students and with the home's residents.
The hardest part is not the hands-on skills but "learning how to speak to them and understand them. They're so much different than our generation," QHS sophomore Chloe Sinnock said.
"You have to get to know the person in a way to speak to them," said Ahern, a junior.
"You have to let some things go in one ear and out the other. They don't have a filter," QHS sophomore Abbey Lubbert said.
And with two, three or more students working together on a task, "you definitely learn to work around one another but also to work with each other," said Jean Beckman, a QHS senior. The students also work together on community service projects, including a recent blood drive, as part of the Quincy chapter of Health Occupations Students of America.
Tasks at the nursing home range from walking with residents and shifting their position in bed to helping with the morning routine of getting dressed.
"Going to the nursing home exposes you to many different career fields," Ahern said. "You're always doing something different. Even if it's the same, it's still different with each person. Their needs are different. You learn different skills with different people."
Students found inspiration to take the class from family members or friends who are in health care or to "give back" for care received by a grandparent in a nursing home. Others wanted to be a CNA or use that certification as a steppingstone to a career as a registered nurse or a doctor, and a second-year class, Health Occupations II, for students with CNA certification to job shadow in the health care field.
"I always wanted to work at the hospital, and so I just decided to take this class. I really liked the skills that we were doing," said QHS senior Madison Brassfield, who is in Health Occupations II and is working part-time at St. Vincent's while planning to become a registered nurse. "I just liked working with residents and being able to help them. I found a love for being a CNA."
So did Briana Bird, who works at St. Vincent's as a CNA with plans to become a radiology technician. She enjoys seeing Trantor's students -- and understands what they're learning because she did it herself, graduating from QHS in 2016.
Taking advantage of the QAVTC opportunity "is a really good experience," Bird said. "Just go for it. If you've got your mind set to it, you can do anything."