NEW MADRID - Stereotypes don't bother Jason McDonald.
The tall, broad-shoulder New Madrid County Central High School senior knows stereotypes just don't work in the real world. Each time he tells someone his career choice is nursing, he smiles because he knows there goes another stereotype.
"It doesn't take a certain sex to do the job, it takes a lot of heart," said McDonald about his future profession. And he adds with a grin: "It doesn't bother me to be in a minority."
It is that attitude, along with top grades, outstanding activities and a strong work ethic which prompted New Madrid County R-1 officials to nominate the young man for the Tech Prep Student of the Year. It also garnered the attention of officials at Three Rivers Community College who selected McDonald from nominees from six area technical skills centers as their choice for state honors and the recipient of a $500 scholarship.
He will meet with Gov. Bob Holden in Jefferson City and the other nominees from across Missouri on March 6 and 7. The winner of the state award will be named at that time.
While McDonald realizes his choice of careers might puzzle some, it is a choice he has made with deliberation.
The son of Donna Mitchell of Canalou and Kevin McDonald of Belgrade, McDonald first became interested in the profession listening to a friend's mother talk about her work as a nurse. "I never heard her complain about her job. She would talk about her patients and what she did," he recalled. "It interested me and I thought it would be neat to help people."
The more he learned, the more he decided it would be something he would like to do. To make absolutely certain though, McDonald decided to take the health occupations class offered through the New Madrid County R-1 Technical Skills Center.
The year-long three-hour class, taught by Renee Smith, RN, BSN, introduces students to the various health care careers. They learn the duties, master basic health skills, get actual work experience and by the end of the school year those who have decided to continue in the health occupations field will take the certified nurse's aide test.
"This gives them a step up on their fellow students," said Smith. "They know what is expected of them."
Although the class has offered few surprises, McDonald has learned being a CNA isn't an easy job and working with patients requires patience. Already he has worked with patients at Sells Rest Home in Matthews and Beverly Healthcare in New Madrid along with shadowing a physical therapist with the Restart program in New Madrid.
"I love it," he said about the work but adds this is just a start. After graduation in May he will attend Three Rivers Community College to earn an associate degree in nursing. After that, he said he will work as a nurse and study to obtain his bachelor's degree in nursing.
As his teacher, Smith said McDonald is more focused on the nursing profession than many of the seniors who take her class.
Bob Pulliam, director of the Technical Skills Center, is also impressed with him. "I think he is one of the best contestants we have ever sent to Jefferson City. He offers the full package - good grades, he works, he is active in his school and community, he volunteers - I don't know how you could have a much better contestant."
In addition to his interest in nursing, McDonald's resume to the state officials noted he has a 3.4 grade point average and is a member of the National Honor Society. He is active in the Singing Eagles and the new musical theater group at the school along with serving as the vice president of the senior class, a member of Teen Eagle Spirit and Vocational-
Industrial Club of America and attended Boy's State.
In his hometown of Canalou, he is active in the Big Ridge General Baptist Church and was selected for the town's Park Board Committee. Along with all of his activities, McDonald also works and serves as a trainer for Pizza Hut in Sikeston.
He is looking forward to his trip to Jefferson City and meeting the governor.
"This is an honor I never expected," said McDonald about his nomination. "It is going to be fun and they say this is an honor we have never won - I'm ready to go in kicking."