The Herkimer Central School District Spotlight showcases student, graduate and staff member successes.
Mary Ellen Clark is the nurse at Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School.
How long have you been with the district?
This is my 13th year at Herkimer — I was at an elementary school before that. I am in my 20th year of school nursing.
I grew up in Little Falls, and I’ve lived here in Herkimer for about 30 years — you can almost see my house from here.
What are some of the challenges and rewards of your work?
Teenagers don’t always want to let you in. They don’t always want to open up. But in my role, I get to be someone safe for them to open up to. I’m not going to give them detention, I’m not asking them about that assignment that’s overdue. So sometimes they do let you in, and it’s a real privilege when that happens.
We do our best to take care of our students and to help in any way we can. If we know someone doesn’t have a way to get home in the middle of the school day, we’ll let that student rest here in the office until it’s time for them to go home. It’s things like that where we can build trust with students and let them know they’re safe here, that they’re going to be taken care of.
What do you love about working at Herkimer?
When I was a little girl and I wanted to be a nurse, this was what I wanted to do. Health care and education are the kind of jobs where you can come back to your home town, because those jobs are out there.
When I came to work here, I was a little nervous, because I didn’t want any of the students to feel uncomfortable if I knew their circumstances or their families. But actually, I’ve found that it’s the opposite. Because I know the school, I know the community, I know the families, there’s a comfort in that, and it allows students to feel understood. It’s a trust level.
That’s the beauty of a small town like this — one of the reasons people stay is because of that sense of community, and family, where people are here to support each other. I hate to say it, but nowadays, I’m the age where I not only recognize the parents’ names, but some of the grandparents, too, and it’s that third generation of kids who are coming through school now.