MOUNT AIRY, N.C. — During a year when many of us realized the importance of nurses and medical workers, Surry County launched a program that allows high schoolers to get real-life nursing experience through an apprenticeship.

Surry-Yadkin Works recruited 13 high schoolers for its first class of apprentices last year, and they’ve been working since January at Northern Regional Hospital.

All of the apprentices already gained their certified nursing assistant title at Surry Community College and worked in various roles in the hospital.

“Nurses are what makes the hospital go around,” says Annsley Puckett, one of the pre-apprentices. “They’re the ones who are taking care of you and getting you from one place to the other and making sure you’re OK. The doctors, they come in, and they tell you what’s wrong, but it’s the nurses who are there and caring for you.”

Once they complete the work this semester, they’ll have the opportunity to become a full apprentice and continue working at the hospital while working toward their registered nurse or licensed practical nurse degree at Surry Community College for free.

There is zero out-of-pocket cost for the students.

“This is exactly where I want to be; this is where I want to be in my future,” Puckett says. “I want to be helping people, and I see now just the hospital atmosphere that is here, and I see what an opportunity that this is.”

Leaders of Surry-Yadkin Works say other counties across our state are interested in this model, so you could see this pop up in other counties soon.

High school students across our state can get a jump start on college nursing classes through your local community college.