Gracien ’22 Assists Residents at Bucks County Care Facility

By Caitlin Burns | November 18, 2020

Raising Expectations for Academic Learning (REAL) Certificate student Cassie Gracien ’22 is launching her dreams by assisting in the kitchen at Bucks County Neshaminy Manor nursing home and long-term care facility.

Gracien is a certified kitchen helper at the facility, helping prepare meals for the residents. Last year when she started, she couldn’t have imagined the changes that would happen with the onset of the pandemic.

“Over the summer, all the workers were getting tested once a week,” said Gracien, who is required to wear a mask and other personal protective equipment during her shift. 
Now, the facility is testing staff at least once a month. It’s to make sure we’re all safe and healthy around the residents.”

Gracien usually works five-hour shifts, helping to package meals and loading up carts for distribution. While she doesn’t work hands-on with residents, she knows her job helps keep them healthy by ensuring that nurses and other staff have safely prepared food to distribute on time.

Before joining the REAL Certificate program this year, Gracien had completed two kitchen certifications: at Greater Johnstown Career and Technical Center for culinary arts as a kitchen helper and at Job Corps, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor, for kitchen assistance. She graduated in 2017 from Philadelphia’s Northeast High School.

“What I like about Culinary Arts is the interaction with people,” said Gracien. “I had difficulty with it when I started there, but I got better at it day-by-day.”

Being in a kitchen isn’t Gracien’s dream job: she wants to own her own business, perhaps her own restaurant that serves healthy food options inspired by her Haitian American roots. What inspires her is singing and performing, and she’s enrolled in theater classes at Arcadia. She’d performed in Rent and Pippin at her high school and now performs gospel music, which she hopes to do  professionally one day. 

“Acting and singing are what I’m passionate about,” said Gracien. “I would love to make my voice stronger and travel all over the world. Culinary is just the backup.”

The Raising Expectations for Academic Learning (REAL) Certificate is a two-year program that offers students with disabilities the opportunity to participate in the same learning environments available to same-age peers in an academic-, vocational- and social inclusion-focused education.