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Nursing Students Express Thanks for Equipment Donations

Dec. 8, 2006 — Nursing students at St. Croix Career and Technical Complex took time Friday to thank representatives from the Bennie and Martha Benjamin Foundation for new equipment donated to the program.
Mannequins, computers, overhead projectors and prosthetic arms for intravenous training were donated to the complex's program recently to aid practical and registered nursing students in perfecting their skills.
"We are honoring [the Benjamin foundation] for their donation," said program Administrator Cynthia VanWingerden. "We wanted the students to meet them, and wanted them to meet the students."
The 15-month nursing program began in January. To get accepted into the program, students must have a high-school diploma or GED equivalent and pass an entrance exam, VanWingerden said. Students who complete the program are prepared for the national counsel licensing exam, which tests all registered and practical nurses before allowing them to practice.
The foundation has been awarding scholarships and donating funds to people in the medical field for more than 15 years, said Executive Director David A. Beale. The program began with scholarships to doctors who promised to return to the territory once they had completed their studies, he said
"We had a problem with doctors returning," Beale said. Doctors have to stay away from the islands for many years to complete their studies. Many become rooted to the mainland and are reluctant to return to the islands, he said.
"We get more bang for our bucks when we educate nurses," Beale said, adding that the territory was experiencing a shortage of qualified nurses. "More nurses means better health care for the V.I., [therefore] training and educating nurses is a big priority for us."
The Bennie and Martha Benjamin Foundation began as the brainchild of Claude A. "Bennie" Benjamin, a Christiansted native and musician inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 1984. He had written songs for singers like Frank Sinatra and the Ink Spots. Before his passing in 1989, he set up the Bennie and Martha Benjamin Foundation to help the territory's medical facilities. The foundation has since provided materials and funding to UVI's St. Thomas and St. Croix campuses. Initial funding for the foundation came from the family's real-estate ventures and royalties from Benjamin's music.
Wendy St. Louis, 18, she credits her time in the program for her growth as a person. The program is teaching her responsibility and "how to be an adult," she said. St. Louis is torn between forensics and nursing, but is trying to find a way to fit the two together, she said. The best part about being a nurse for her is the patients: "It's rewarding to know that when you take care of patients, they thank you."
VanWingerden said the SCCTEC nursing program will begin again in March, with registration beginning Feb. 21. All interested participants can contact "Miss Van" at 778-6311, ext. 2579, or SCCTEC at 778-2216.
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