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NDC Nursing Student Holds State Office

By Christian Taske '07

Notre Dame College nursing student Sarah Rak is an ambitious and spontaneous young woman. The 22-year-old has her eyes set on becoming a nurse practitioner and pursuing a career in pediatric oncology. She would love to work for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., one day.

But while she has a clear career path in mind, her decision to become a nurse was much less thought-out. “I just woke up one morning and decided to become a nurse,” Rak remembers her spontaneous decision as a high school senior.

Maybe it was her family history of cancer combined with her love for children that made her want to become a nurse. But Rak had not really thought about it until that morning. Since then, she has experienced that some of the best decisions in life are the spontaneous ones.

One of those decisions led her to become the community health director for the Ohio Nursing Students’ Association. Rak, who was elected at the ONSA annual convention in Toledo last October, is the first NDC nursing student to hold a state board office.

Rak attended the ONSA convention not knowing she would run for office. But when fellow nursing student Kayla Kirkpatrik and Rob Davis, the dean of the Finn Center, encouraged her to consider a state office, she was intrigued. A quick glance at the positions up for re-election, Rak realized she would make a good community health director. She ran against two other nursing students, gave a speech and was elected.

“I thought, ‘If I walk away from this, I will regret it,’” Rak says. “I wanted to go above and beyond just going to school and studying. I wanted to do more. It’s very rewarding to me.”

In her new position, she has to implement several local community health projects as well as a statewide program over the next year. At Notre Dame, the junior has already introduced a “Wish List Program” that collected food and household items for the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland.

For her statewide project, she plans to implement bone marrow drives throughout Ohio. Rak is working with Be the Match, a national marrow donor program, and nursing students from other colleges in Ohio to organize the drives.

“The Be the Match representative I am working with is very enthusiastic to be involved in the project and has high hopes for success,” Rak says.

The job of community health director is a time-consuming one. In addition to monthly ONSA meetings at universities throughout Ohio, Rak spends several hours a week researching projects. At a leadership conference in March, she will teach other nursing students how to implement a community health program. In April, she will represent Ohio’s student nurses at the annual convention of the National Student Nurses Association in Pittsburgh.

Rak has been elected for one year but would like to run for re-election or a different office next October.

“Sarah is an excellent student who demonstrates diligence with her nursing studies,” says Assistant Professor of Nursing Judy Risko. “She is self-motivated and committed to serving others, and possesses leadership qualities and a professional demeanor.”

On campus, Rak has put those leadership skills to work as the communication coordinator for the Notre Dame Student Nurses Association. She also participates in many outreach activities, such as the National Alliance for Mental Illness Walk.

Notre Dame College is a perfect fit for her, says the North Ridgeville, Ohio, native who wanted to stay close to home.

“With the small classes, the teachers have the time to help you, they take an interest in your learning and they want you to succeed,” Rak says. “They are great nurses and an inspiration to the students.”

The chance to have her clinical rotations at some of the best hospitals in the country, including the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, also played a major role in Rak’s decision to attend NDC.

“On a scale of one to 10, NDC is a 10,” she says.

Rak is glad she decided to attend Notre Dame College and grateful she woke up one morning determined to become a nurse.

“Nursing for me is a calling,” she says. “I’ve just followed my heart ever since.”

Christian Taske '07 is the editor and writer at Notre Dame College.