SMCC receives donation to support health science students pursuing CNA degrees

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The Southern Maine Community Center recently received a $50,000 donation to provide scholarships to CNAs who are SMCC students. From left: SMCC student Emma Morris, SMCC student Erin Huebner, SMCC student Chelsea Mancini, Caron Chase and SMCC student Carrie Colburn. Courtesy photo

SOUTH PORTLAND — Philanthropist Caron Chase has made a major donation to Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) to strengthen educational opportunities for certified nurse assistants (CNAs) pursuing higher education in the health sciences.

The purpose of the $50,000 donation is to provide scholarships to current CNAs who are SMCC students and wish to further their careers through education.

Caron Chase’s gift to SMCC is a commitment to honor the legacy of her late husband, Dan Wartenberg. Dan was a respected epidemiologist, teacher, researcher and community activist who passed away on August 21, 2020 from Alzheimer’s disease. Chase emphasized the importance of increasing educational opportunities for CNAs, especially those aspiring in Maine’s Nw Mainer population. Further education will improve their lives
health care.

“After Dan’s diagnosis, he spoke often to teach people how to live meaningful lives with Alzheimer’s. As his illness progressed, I was fortunate to see the amazing work done by the CNAs and continue to help make Dan’s life meaningful,” said Chase. “When he was being cared for in the memory room, the CNAs were his primary caregivers. Their unwavering compassion and tireless determination to help improve my husband’s life was truly inspiring. Dan was a champion of community empowerment in many ways, so I can’t think of a better way to honor his legacy than to encourage CNA students and their educational path. Their dedication deserves recognition and support, and I am honored to play a role in helping students achieve their goals.
Goals in a career that is vital to the well-being of our society.

The scholarship initiative seeks to address the critical need for trained health care professionals in Maine and highlights the critical role CNAs play in patient care. This donation aims to equip CNAs with the necessary tools and knowledge to continue in the health sciences by facilitating access to higher education, thereby strengthening the health care workforce in the region.

“We are so grateful to Karen Chase and her act of kindness in support of SMCC students,” said SMCC Nursing Program Chair Jessica Draves. “CNAs are the backbone of the nursing profession, and this grant will support students who are already giving so much to the healthcare community and help build a sustainable future in the workforce. As a former CNA, I am thrilled that the SMCC Foundation can provide additional support to this student population.”

“This gift aligns perfectly with SMCC’s commitment to providing accessible education and supporting the health care needs of our community,” said SMCC Foundation Dean Julie Chase. “We are honored to be entrusted with these funds and look forward to encouraging aspiring CNAs in their educational careers.”

The donation will create scholarships for CNAs enrolled in health sciences pathway programs at SMCC, enabling them to achieve their academic and professional goals.

“My journey from CNA to pursuing an RN was once a distant dream,” said SMCC student Erin Huebner. “Working as a CNA in memory care has provided me with invaluable experience that has helped me achieve my dreams of stepping into every role throughout my nursing career. Mrs. Chase’s support for SMCCC students to pursue further education is invaluable and will enable them to achieve other dreams. I am grateful for the incredible generosity that has been shown to me while recognizing and supporting a profession that is often overlooked and underappreciated.

To learn more about SMCC’s Health Sciences Pathway, visit

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