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Milestones of Hope

SkillsUSA Rhode Island students support the newest members of their community through a unique service project designed to turn worry into encouragement.
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Photo courtesy of Cranston (R.I.) Area Career and Technical Center (CACTC).

Having a newborn baby spend the first few weeks of their life in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is stressful for parents and families. Helping to ease that stress was the motivation behind a very special community service project created by SkillsUSA health science students from Cranston (R.I.) Area Career and Technical Center (CACTC).

CACTC students Mia Boscia, Kayla Tortorella and Abbey Regan led the project, which centered around the creation of “milestone markers” parents can use to track the progress of their babies in the NICU at the Women and Infants Hospital in Providence.

Delivered in a colorful collection of 650 envelopes, the milestone markers included messages like, “I’m breathing on my own,” “I’m tube-free,” “First bath,” “NICU Graduate,” and more. The markers also included areas for nurses to leave a short message and share the baby’s weight.

“Once [the babies] pass a certain milestone, it’s a celebration for parents, since the kids are one step closer to getting home,” says Boscia.

Kayla Tortorella and Mia Boscia. Photo courtesy of Cranston (R.I.) Area Career and Technical Center (CACTC).
Kayla Tortorella and Mia Boscia. Photo courtesy of Cranston (R.I.) Area Career and Technical Center (CACTC).

Boscia, Tortorella and Regan spread the word about the volunteer opportunity using flyers, and CACTC teachers uploaded the information to their Google Classrooms. As a result, student volunteers jumped in to help put the marker envelopes together.

“I think they’ve done an unbelievable job targeting such a vulnerable population,” says CACTC teacher Lauren Fontaine of the students’ efforts

Fontaine wasn’t alone in her praise: The community project earned Boscia, Tortorella and Regan a gold medal at their chapter’s regional competition and, in June, a national bronze at the 2022 SkillsUSA Championships, part of SkillsUSA’s National Leadership & Skills Conference in Atlanta.

Backstage with their gold medals. From L-R, Mia Boscia, Kayla Tortorella and Abbey Regan. Photo by SkillsUSA.
Backstage with their gold medals. From L-R, Mia Boscia, Kayla Tortorella and Abbey Regan. Photo by SkillsUSA.

But that’s not where the story ends: The students are continuing to work with Women and Infants Hospital to expand the project to other states and deliver their markers to larger hospitals.

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