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Quajen Coates didn’t know he wanted a career in the medical field, but after studying at New Community Career & Technical Institute (NCCTI) he has plans to pursue a nursing degree. Coates graduated from the Patient Care Technician (PCT) program at NCCTI and currently works in that role in the oncology unit at University Hospital in Newark.
Coates first learned about NCCTI from his guidance counselor at KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy, located on Littleton Avenue in Newark. He graduated from high school in 2018 and had been working a variety of jobs including at moving companies and landscaping. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he wasn’t sure what to do. He reached out to his former guidance counselor who provided him with several options. One of them was enrolling at NCCTI.
“NCCTI was a definite option for me and it seemed like the best program possible with something that was needed in my life at the moment,” Coates said.
Before he enrolled, Coates learned his grandfather had been diagnosed with cancer and he wanted to educate himself to be able to help in any possible way. He decided to join the PCT program to be able to care for his grandfather.
“Unfortunately I wasn’t able to even show him the skills I learned or help him out because he died about a week before I graduated. But it opened up more for me because that’s what gave me the idea to take it as far as I can,” Coates said. “It started out as me just wanting to help him out and now it opened up the door for me to be in the medical oncology space.”
Prior to his graduation in May 2021, NCCTI personnel helped Coates get a job as a patient sitter at University Hospital. In that role, he did one-on-one interventions with patients. During his shift, he would sit with a patient, watch TV and play games with them and speak with them. He found the job beneficial because he was able to get used to the hospital setting and interact with patients.
Once Coates graduated, University Hospital promoted him to Patient Care Technician. He does a variety of tasks for patients and nurses, including helping patients to the bathroom, feeding them, cleaning and drawing blood.
“I enjoy it a lot,” he said.
He now has aspirations to become an Assistant Director of Nursing. He’s currently working to start prerequisite classes at Essex County College so he can get an associate’s degree in nursing and progress from there.
“I am so proud of Mr. Coates and all our students graduating from NCCTI,” said NCC Chief Operating Officer and NCCTI Interim Director Fred Hunter. “Our graduates are leaving school with the knowledge needed to be successful in their chosen program area.”
Coates felt prepared to enter the workforce after graduating. Because of the pandemic, he participated in a hybrid program where he had in-person instruction two days per week and conducted the rest of his learning on the computer. He said this schedule was beneficial because he does computer work as part of his job and was grateful for the additional practice.
PCT Instructor Dr. Maha Koltowski believes that Coates has a bright future ahead.
“He was attentive and hard-working,” she said.
Coates is happy with his current path and attributes his success to NCCTI.
“I want to thank the staff. They really changed my life,” Coates said. “Everybody showed a tremendous amount of love and gave me so much hope doing this program at a time that was hard for me. They were just so loving. They made me want to come to school every day. I’m just appreciative of them.”
He is also working to pay it forward. His supervisors asked if he knew of any other NCCTI graduates looking for work. He reached out to Koltowski to see if anyone needed assistance getting connected to University Hospital.
“I’m more than willing to help because they helped me so much and I just want to be a bridge,” Coates said. “Somebody had to help me so there’s nothing wrong with reaching back. I want to help.”
NCCTI is an accredited post-secondary career and technical institution that offers the following programs: Automotive Technician, Diesel Technician, Building Trades Specialist, Clinical Medical Assistant, Patient Care Technician, Community Healthcare Worker, Culinary Arts Specialist and Business & Computer Technologies. NCCTI also operates a comprehensive Financial Opportunity Center and Bridges to Career Opportunities Program sponsored by the local and national Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) offices. For more information, call 973-824-6484, log onto newcommunitytech.edu or visit 274 South Orange Ave., Newark.