Live, Work, Learn Program a Big Success for Students
Atlantic City, N.J. — Any doubts Stockton University senior Natalie Giovinazzi had about becoming a nurse were lifted this summer thanks to the school’s Atlantic City Summer Experience — Live, Work, Learn program.
“I feel like I’m so prepared now,” said Giovinazzi, of Swedesboro, who worked primarily as a patient care associate with AtlantiCare. “I know what to expect and what’s expected of me. It just made me so much more comfortable going into my senior year.”
The Health Science major was one of 130 students who spent the summer getting paid to work for an Atlantic City business, staying for free at the Stockton Atlantic City Residential Complex on the Boardwalk and earning four college credits from a free career-readiness and leadership class.
Of the 130 students, 83% were satisfied with the program experience and 65% said the work experience provided them with education that they could not have learned in the classroom.
“I’m extremely pleased with the success of the program,” said Stockton President Harvey Kesselman. “I applaud the efforts of everyone involved this summer to make this a reality.”
The innovative program that began this year not only provided local businesses with employees during the city’s busiest time of the year and students with learning opportunities in the city, but for as many as 30 students it gave them continued employment in the fall.
“That is absolutely what I had always envisioned for this program — that it would lead to a guaranteed job,” Kesselman said. “You can say to a prospective student that if you are involved in this program, you had a chance of winding up with a job at the end of it.”
Giovinazzi has continued to be a “tech” at AtlantiCare this fall, working side-by-side with nurses and doctors. She has dealt with patients of all ages from the elderly to even spending time in the newborn intensive care unit and witnessing a Cesarean delivery.
Her most memorable experience came when she was able to spend a week with a newborn baby. She performed a hearing test and fed him every three hours while he was in isolation.
I’ve always been nervous going into the nursing program because I just had no idea of what that atmosphere was like. Now, because of the program ... I feel so very, very prepared.”
“It was really special for me having to stay with this baby all throughout the week,” she said. “Being able to see him gain his strength and being able to see him go home to his family.”
She said her work in the NICU cemented her future career plans, which include applying for Stockton’s accelerated nursing program.
“I’ve always been nervous going into the nursing program because I just had no idea of what that atmosphere was like,” she said. “Now, because of the program, I know what the nurses expects the techs to do. I feel so very, very prepared for the nursing program.”
In addition to Stockton students and staff being pleased with the summer experience, all 10 of the business partners believed it was a worthwhile experience for their company and the students.
“We were providing an opportunity to these students to learn a skill, whether it’s how to deal at a gaming table or how to open a restaurant,” said Michael Monty, the general manager of Bally’s Atlantic City. “But it wasn’t just benevolent. These were meaningful positions for our team this summer to get filled.”
Monty said there was no doubt his casino would participate again next year and that the program is helping to develop potentially new employees.
“Once you get your foot in the door, then the sky’s the limit,” he said. “If there’s somebody who’s a hustler, motivated, and isn’t where they want to spend their time next summer, we have a lot of different opportunities here for them. We can expose them to a lot of different business lines by the time they graduate.”
Gregory Copeland appreciates the additional source of income this fall after Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa offered him a part-time job following his summer working as a food runner. The junior from Atlantic City works at the casino’s pool and nightclub on the weekends. He said the program has helped him with time management to balance work, school and a social life.
“I got to experience the casino life and that can be hectic at times, but it was good. I liked it,” said the Sociology and Anthropology major who also competes on Stockton’s track and field team. “I liked how (the program) put me in other people’s shoes, to see what they see and do (with their jobs).”
And while the Live, Work, Learn program had a large number of participants like Copeland from Atlantic County (24), 82% of the students live in other New Jersey counties, including 15 from Camden County, 14 from Essex County and nine from Gloucester County.
“Part of our mission of being an anchor institution is to be engaged in activities like this that support the economic welfare of the city of Atlantic City,” Kesselman said. “But this can also really help us recruit students from all over the state and beyond.”
Stockton Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Leamor Kahanov said she hopes to expand the program next year and include additional partners.
“I’m thrilled that so many students participated in the program’s first year and were able to gain real-world experience that not only would help them complete their Stockton education, but would begin a path toward a future career,” she said.
Employee partners included: AtlantiCare; Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel & Casino; Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa; Caesars Entertainment (Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort and Tropicana Atlantic City); The Claridge Hotel; fantaSea Resorts; Hard Rock Hotel & Casino; Ocean Casino Resort; Resorts Casino Hotel; and Steel Pier.
-- Story by Mark Melhorn