By Joanne Kud
Zonta Club of Grand Island
For Zonta women worldwide, March 8 is not only International Women’s Day; it is also Zonta Yellow Rose Day. On this day, countries all over the world celebrate the achievements of women, while also acknowledging their ongoing quest for gender equality. In many countries, this day is also a national holiday. March 8 was designated Yellow Rose Day, by Zonta International in 1999 to celebrate women’s achievements through the beauty of a yellow rose.
The pandemic has been a time to reflect on the acts of courage, selflessness and service by extraordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of our country and community.
This year the Zonta Club of Grand Island acknowledged the significant impact the women in health care have had throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In observance of Yellow Rose Day, they are proud to honor eight school nurses for their services to our community. Even before COVID, being a school nurse had been more than distributing bandages and ice packs or helping students manage their insulin pumps or inhalers. This year, in between screenings for vision and hearing, school nurses have been called upon to help calm some of the students’ fears and anxieties over COVID-19. During this nation’s health crisis, they have exhibited compassion, dedication and determination in fostering and maintaining the health, well-being and safety of our youth.
“The Grand Island School District nurses have been, and continue to be, highly regarded professionals,” said Nurse Coordinator Cheryl Cardone, who also is the district’s assistant superintendent of Special Education and Pupil Personnel Services Cardone said the nurses are responsible for the health, safety and wellness of the district’s faculty, staff and students.
“They are caring, compassionate and knowledgeable of each and every student. Most recently, due to the pandemic, they have adapted to the daily changes and challenges.”
“I am very proud to be working with each and every one of our nurses,” she said.
Zonta Club of Grand Island awarded yellow roses to the following school nurses:
• AnnMarie Stewart, RN, BSN
• Tara Kowalik RN, BSN
• Dawn Frosolone, RN
• Darlene A. Rine, RN, BSN
• Dana DeLuke, RN
• Mary M. Evert, RN
• Lori Brown, RN
• Suzanne Savage, LPN
For almost 29 years, the Grand Island School District has been extremely fortunate to have Stewart as its school nurse at Kaegebein Elementary School. Throughout those years, she has supported students and their families with their health concerns, which she says range from minor complaints to serious health conditions, illness or injury.
Stewart is a graduate of Niagara University. In addition to her duties at the elementary school, she has been the nurse representative for the NYS United Teachers-School Related Professional Union for the majority of her career. She serves on the district’s Leadership Committee, Kaegebein’s Wellness Committee and is co-chair of Kaegebein’s Healthy Heart Night.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly created a very busy and challenging year for school nurses,” Stewart said.
As the only health care professional in the building, the students, parents, faculty and staff rely on the school nurse’s knowledge and expertise to navigate through this worldwide health crisis. The nurses had to learn and follow guidelines and protocols developed by the CDC, the New York State Department of Health and the Erie County Department of Health, and then incorporate them into the school district’s reopening plan.
“Our primary responsibility is to ensure that everyone is safe while at school, through our health screening forms, temperature scanning, random COVID testing and challenging phone calls regarding absences related to illness and travel. Meanwhile, all of this needs to be tracked and documented.”
Stewart said, “I humbly accept this recognition on behalf of nurses everywhere who are the frontline workers in each and every health care setting.”
“Working with children is refreshing,” Kowalik said. “Their enthusiasm for health and wellness is nothing short of inspiring.”
For the past three school years, Kowalik has been the school nurse at Charlotte Sidway Elementary School. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Niagara University in 2001 and began her career in nursing in the cardiac step-down unit at Erie County Medical Center. She then transferred to the hospital’s Urology/Operating Room. Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center was Kowalik’s next career choice, working in their operating room and eventually becoming team leader of surgical urology.” In 2011, she became a registered nurse first assistant in New York and Hawaii, assisting in every category of surgery. Kowalik has been published in several medical publications.
Sidway Principal Denise Dunbar said of Kowalik, “She is a true model when it comes to a school nurse. She works tirelessly to ensure the health and safety of students, being instrumental in helping the district comply with the many regulations, including testing for COVID-19. Kowalik works very closely with the building administration, office staff, faculty and staff, as well as her colleagues in the nursing department, to ensure a safe environment within our school. She is a valuable resource and works closely with families as they navigate the many rules and regulations.”
“No position I’ve held has brought me more joy than caring for those in my own neighborhood,” Kowalik said. “As a school nurse during this pandemic, I’ve had the opportunity to provide care and guidance to our community in a time of crisis.”
“I love my job,” said Frosolone, who for the past three years has been the school nurse at Huth Road Elementary. She has five children of her own and loves working with children.
Although this past year has been a very different year of school nursing, she said she is amazed at the resilience of the students. “Elementary level children have such innocence and are willing to do what is expected of them to keep everyone safe.”
Some of the highlights of Frosolone’s job include the ability to promote health education and to lead families and students to resources that are important for chronic illness, mental health and the overall well-being of the children. “Whenever I can help one person, it gives me reassurance that I am in the right place.” She said she is very grateful to be a positive role model for the students, helping them realize that they are not alone and that we will all get through these very difficult times together. School nurses are integrated in their schools and communities, addressing unmet health needs so that children can focus on school.”
“We are a very close group of women who all have the compassion to help others. I am very honored to share this nomination with my fellow nurses,” she said.
Darlene A. Rine
New to the Grand Island School District, Darlene Rine has been the school nurse at Veronica Connor Middle School since January of this year.
She graduated summa cum laude from Daemen College with a Bachelor of Science in nursing and has over 30 years of nursing experience. Among her prior positions, she said she proudly served America’s heroes at the Buffalo Veterans Administration Hospital.
Rine continues to work respite weekends and camper sessions at Cradle Beach Camp. Throughout her career she has worked in medical surgical oncology, dialysis, as a diabetes class educator, and coordinator of the VA contract nursing home program and community referral program.
In her free time, Rine is a member of the Hope Chest Dragon Boat team. Hope Chest is a nonprofit organization geared toward getting breast cancer survivors back to optimal health by exercise, paddling and camaraderie.
Rine said that the pandemic has increased the workload for school nurses, with temperature screening, rapid testing, attendance monitoring, phone calls, updating spreadsheets and following guidelines. Nurses need to assess and isolate all students that come into the health office with any COVID symptom complaint, call their parents to pick them up, and provide parents with the information needed for their child to return to school.
“I find satisfaction knowing that I continue to help those under my charge stay safe and healthy during this trying time. Nurses just help people; that’s what we do, pandemic or not.”
Dana DeLuke holds the position of registered professional nurse at Grand Island High School, where she has worked for the past two-and-a-half years.
In 1997, she received an applied science degree with a major in medical assistant; and in 2005, she graduated with an applied science degree with a major in nursing from Niagara County Community College.
DeLuke’s work experience began as a medical/surgical floor nurse at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital. Her career then took her to the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Institute as a registered nurse in the Intermediate Critical Care Unit. Before joining the staff at Grand Island High School, she was a triage nurse at Gastroenterology Associates.
“I have striven to be a friendly face, a steady hand and a source of information for the students of Grand Island High School amidst the uncertainty and stress of the past year,” said DeLuke. “The students, in turn, with their smiles (under their masks), their conversations and youthful optimism, have provided me with hope and a much needed sense of normalcy.”
Mary M. Evert
Mary Evert, who is the “float nurse” for the Grand Island School District, has 35 years of nursing experience. She has worked in a wide range of nursing positions to gain experience throughout her career. The majority of it has been doing home care for both Erie and Niagara counties, finishing her career at the Niagara County Department of Health, Nursing Division.
She was lured out of retirement by a nursing co-worker. Evert is a graduate of Niagara County Community College.
“I strive to give my best to each and every student and co-worker; when appropriate, with a little bit of humor. This has certainly been a challenging year,” she said.
One of Evert’s favorite quotes from Ellen DeGeneres is: “Never follow anyone else’s path. Unless you’re in the woods, and you’re lost, and you see a path. Then by all means, follow that path.”
Lori Brown has been the school nurse at Huth Road Elementary School for the past two years. She also works part-time for both Aveanna Healthcare and Medicaid Direct Nursing.
For her nursing education, Brown first attended Orleans/Niagara BOCES to become a licensed practical nurse, then continued her education at Genesee Community College to become a registered nurse.
“I love my position as a 1:1 nurse in the 6:1:1 classroom at Huth Elementary “ Brown said. “While I didn’t have the extensive responsibilities of the wonderful health office nurses, I was very happy to help out with COVID testing. The students were so brave and amazing, and I want to thank all of them who volunteered to be tested. It was an honor to work with these students and to see how resilient they are.”
Brown said she feels that helping people during the pandemic has affected her life in positive ways and it has definitely put things in perspective for her. She said, “I can’t say it better than Paulo Coelho wrote in “The Alchemist”: ‘The simple things are the most extraordinary things.’ ”
Faithfully, with dedication and love, Savage has been “on board” to ensure safe transport, and professional care, to Grand Island special needs students during their “road trip” to off-Grand Island schools. For over 10 years on the bus, Savage has spent each school day getting to know each of them, talking with them, laughing with them and helping them.
Savage received her LPN at the Millard Fillmore School of Nursing. She previously worked at Gates Millard Fillmore Hospital, Buffalo General Hospital and Sheehan Memorial Hospital, working in the Emergency Rooms and Intensive Care Units.
“I have watched so many of them grow up,” said Savage. “I just love my position; the kids make me feel good. It’s rewarding to know you can make a difference.”