Adult LPN student Rebecca Chol accepts a scholarship award from David Connor

Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Adult Practical Nursing Program student Rebecca Chol moved to the United States as an immigrant in 2000 – a single mom with four kids – and made Utica her home.

Originally from the part of Sudan that is now South Sudan, Chol relocated as a refugee to Cairo, Egypt, before applying and being accepted as an immigrant to the United States. English is her second language; Arabic is her first language.

She later had a fifth child, has worked as a nursing aide at Masonic Care Community for 17 years and took classes at Mohawk Valley Community College.

Now in her second of two school years in the part-time day class of the Herkimer BOCES Adult Practical Nursing Program that trains students to become licensed practical nurses, Chol was in class on Dec. 20, 2022, and hadn’t done her Christmas shopping yet.

That’s when she got called out of class by Herkimer BOCES Adult Practical Nursing Program coordinator Sara Nicolette and told she was receiving the annual Jodi Connor Memorial Christmas Scholarship, which is a financial gift provided to a promising LPN student selected by faculty.

“It’s so amazing. I was very emotional. Normally, I don’t cry, but I was crying,” Chol said. “I sure did have a good Christmas – me and my kids.”

David Connor created the Jodi Connor Memorial Scholarship in honor of his late daughter, a 2003 graduate of the Herkimer BOCES LPN program who enjoyed Christmas. David Connor presented the scholarship to Chol the day after she found out about it from Nicolette.

“I was very grateful and honored just to be that student,” Chol said, before referencing Jodi Connor. “She’s watching over me. She’s my angel now.”

Chol said she now thinks of Jodi Connor regularly – including during a challenging question on a recent nursing test.

“I said, ‘Come on, Jodi, you know you want me to pass,” Chol said.

She passed and got an 80 on the test.

Nicolette said Chol is very deserving of the scholarship.

“She’s a wonderful woman,” Nicolette said. “I would have her take care of me or my family any day of the week. She is an example of the type of student that we like to assist in entering the nursing field.”

When Chol was considering joining the Herkimer BOCES program to become an LPN, some of the people around her in Utica were questioning the idea.

“Don’t listen to what people say,” Chol said. “Go and see for yourself.”

Chol said everybody at the Herkimer BOCES nursing program cares for her and supports her.

“They cheer for me, and they support me,” Chol said. “It’s more of a family and not just a school.”

Chol said she would tell others considering whether or not to apply for the program to go for it.

“I would tell them, ‘Do not doubt. Don’t doubt for a minute.’” she said. “They work with you to help you get where you’re going. They don’t judge people. They work with everyone the same.”

The Herkimer BOCES Adult Practical Nursing Program offers three different options: a 12-month full-time class, a 20-month part-time day class and a 20-month part-time evening class. The next full-time class starts in July, and the deadline to apply is June 1. The next part-time class starts in September, and the deadline to apply is July 1. For information, click here. To apply, call 315-867-2206 to schedule an entrance exam.

Chol knew somewhere inside herself for a long time that she wanted to be a nurse. The Herkimer BOCES part-time day program allows her to still work at Masonic Care Community as a nursing aide while going to school. She switched to part-time for work while going through the LPN program.

After graduation in June, Chol plans to get a job as an LPN, gain more experience and potentially further advance her nursing education and nursing career toward becoming a registered nurse.

“I definitely want to work as an LPN and reach out and give back to the community that has given me so much more,” she said.

Adult LPN student Rebecca Chol accepts a scholarship award from David Connor

Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Adult Practical Nursing Program part-time day student Rebecca Chol receives the Jodi Connor Memorial Scholarship from David Connor a few days before Christmas 2022. The annual memorial gift goes to a promising licensed practical nursing student selected by faculty.