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Practical nurse graduate earns 2020 Governor General’s Academic Medal

Cassie Melenka, practical nurse graduate
June 11, 2020

Cassie Melenka, a graduate of the practical nurse program at Medicine Hat College (MHC), never anticipated she would finish at the top of the 2020 graduating class when she began her education at the Brooks campus.

Recognition she describes as a great honour, the Governor General’s Academic Medal was created in 1873 to encourage academic excellence across the nation and is awarded to the student who receives the highest overall average upon graduation.

Originally from a rural farming community, her journey to the Brooks campus was the result of opportunity, passion, and small town appreciation.

“I first attended post-secondary in Edmonton, where I realized that big city life is not for me. Having grown up in Andrew, a village in central Alberta, I knew I would be best suited to a smaller, rural community to purse my education. I searched for the smallest, closest college that offered a nursing program, discovered MHC’s Brooks campus, and felt it was exactly what I was looking for,” explains Melenka.

Melenka also knew her passion and interests lay within rural health, an industry she felt would be widely understood by the practical nurse faculty in Brooks.

“With Brooks being a rural community, I believed the instructors would have a great understanding of the field and where my career was headed. I felt as though it was an opportunity for me to gain valuable, firsthand knowledge and experience throughout my studies.”

Melenka describes one of her fondest memories at MHC as the opportunity she had to participate in a skills weekend event sponsored by the Rural Health Professionals Action Plan (RHPAP).

The experience brought together approximately 70 student nurses from southern Alberta to Drumheller, where they practiced a variety of skills during a number of different scenarios. The initiative was intended to boost incentive for students to pursue a career in rural health. For Melenka, it was an amazing experience and one she credits as the highlight of her student career.

Although she did not expect to achieve top marks, Melenka credits her success to her competitive nature, not against her peers but of continually pushing herself to do better. That characteristic, along with the hard work ethic she’s learned from time spent with her dad working on the family farm led to her accomplish academic excellence.

With a desire to stay close to her roots, Melenka’s future plans include continuing to care for the family farm while making the transition to a nursing position at the rural hospital where she is currently employed as a health care aide.