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Linda Mah
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Reace Hammel: A Head Start on Nursing

Hammel Will Use Heyl Scholarship to Study Nursing at WMU

Reace Hammel went into high school with a plan.

She told her counselor that she wanted to be on track to graduate, to take as many requirements as possible in her first two years, so she could save her junior and senior year for something she “really liked” — although she didn’t know what that was yet.

She knows what it is now: nursing.

Hammel, 18, is a 2017 graduate of Loy Norrix High School, and as a winner of a 2017 Heyl Scholarship, she has a full-ride to Western Michigan University to study nursing. She lives in Kalamazoo with her father Matt Hammel.

The caregiver in her, Hammel said, may be part of her personality inherited from her mother, Rachel Jessup, who died in 2010, after an overdose of prescription pain medications.

“My mom died when I was 11,” Hammel said. “She was also a nurse. I know I’ve taken things from her personality. I just know she was so respectful and so kind to all the people she met and she was really caring. I definitely see that in myself and try to apply that in my life in a big way. I think her mindset made me have a good perspective on the world.”

She said her mother remains one of the most influential people in her life, even though she was young when her mother passed away, and at first her death didn’t really register.

“Sometimes I wish someone would ask about it. It’s not like you forget,” she said. “You’re living right now, but you think ‘I used to have this whole other life that used to be so different.’

Sometimes, I’m like wow things could be a lot different, but I try not to let that stop me. This is life now.

 “I made myself grow. I went from relying on a lot of others to being my own individual. It made me grow up and realize how time is so valuable and people are so valuable.”

She said that while she always admired her mother, she didn’t discover her own passion for health care until she took an anatomy class, where teacher Mark Lowrie urged her to enroll in the Education For Employment class in health science.

“One thing that everyone that meets Reace quickly learns is that she truly is a good person inside and out,” Lowrie said. “When she had mentioned an interest in nursing, I thought that the EFE courses would be perfect for her. I knew that she would do well in the classes, specifically with the hands-on activities and was pleased to see that she excelled in them.”

Education for Employment is a Kalamazoo County career and technical education program offered through the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency. It includes classes in everything from culinary arts to robotics. The program is open to students in the 10th through 12th grade and is held in high schools, at colleges and in business sites around the community. Hammel, for example, worked at Bronson Methodist Hospital as part of her EFE classes.

Hammel has earned her basic life saving certification and her EKG certification through the program. She’s also completed a workplace observation and internship through EFE. The class also volunteers at Heritage Community. Through the professional health science program she will be a certified nurse’s assistant by the start of the summer — and have a job in health care before she starts college.

“EFE has definitely made me very independent with my studies,” she said. “I’ve had to rely on myself to learn the information very quickly because the class is so fast-paced. It also helped me set my priorities.”

Hammel thinks she’d like to be a trauma care nurse. She spent time in a trauma unit as part of an internship.

“I just really love to help people who can’t help themselves. That’s the time they need the most help,” she said. “Everyone on that unit at Bronson was like a family. It was something I could see myself being a part of. There are times in trauma when you have to take a step back and think about what you’re doing because it’s so crazy.”

Lowrie said he can easily imagine Hammel helping people in need.

“Reace is a kind soul, and when I consider someone who is sick, in pain or in need, I earnestly believe that she will provide compassionate care to her patients, easing their cares with an adeptness that will make us all proud,” he said.

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