LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Nyla Petrahai

Position: School Nurse
School: Chapel Street Elementary School
School District: Stratford Public Schools
City, State: Stratford, CT

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Nyla Petrahai was nominated by her principal, Carla Armistead.

All too often in education, we allow excellent service to children pass by without written comment or commendation. Nyla Petrahai, also known as "Nurse Nyla," is a fine example of a nurse practitioner who gives excellent service to children. Nurse Nyla is so much more than a nurse.  She often occupies the roles of educator, mentor, quasi-administrator, and social worker in her school, which has a diverse population of 518 students.

In her role as an educator, Nurse Nyla educates the staff at the beginning of the school year by reviewing food allergies, the use of EpiPens, and blood-borne pathogens. During the year, she makes it a point to visit each classroom to educate students on how to minimize passing along germs by teaching proper hand-washing techniques and how to properly direct a sneeze or cough so that germs are not widespread. In addition, she works with colleagues in the district to host the girls' talk that is given annually to students in grade six. Nurse Nyla puts together a comprehensive presentation on puberty for girls. When she is not administering medicine or taking care of a cut, she often mentors the students she treats.

Students often visit with Nurse Nyla to seek advice or to be listened to. Nurse Nyla has such a way with students, as she is very caring and nurturing. Students feel comfortable and are willing to share their feelings or what is going on with them personally because they know she cares. Every week, she has students in her office for lunch. She is often part of a strategic plan for students who have difficulty interacting with their peers. These students often look forward to spending time with her. She often speaks with students about academics and always trying their best.  Recently, she mentored a high school student who has ambitions to become a nurse.  The student spent 12 weeks job-shadowing Nurse Nyla, learning all that she could learn before heading off to college.

"As principal, I am very grateful to have Nurse Nyla work alongside me," Armistead said. "We have cases where students are in crisis, and she is very instrumental in ensuring these students get the much needed support they deserve."  

Nurse Nyla is very instrumental in reaching out to families to discuss medical and other needs. Moreover, she is a member of the pupil services team and helps to support students who receive tiered intervention for behavior.  Nurse Nyla also serves on the school-wide Safety Committee and is part of the Crisis Intervention Team. Every day, she calls the homes of students who are absent. She is an important member of the administrative team.

As social worker, Nurse Nyla counsels a lot of students and works closely with their families. A first grade student visited her and complained that his feet were hurting. It turned out that the student's shoes were too small.  Without hesitation, she went out and bought the student a new pair of shoes. She would often buy articles of clothing for students who were in need. There was one little student who would come in disheveled. Nurse Nyla would get the student cleaned up and provide the student with clean clothes before sending the student to class. Moreover, she is always willing to make a home visit when necessary.

Nurse Nyla is a beloved member in her school community.  She is well respected among faculty and staff, along with students and their families. When she turned 60, for example, the entire school decorated a hallway in her honor. Students made cards and expressed how much they appreciated her.  When students arrive in the morning, Nurse Nyla is always standing at her door, greeting the sea of students with a smile and a good morning. At the end of the school day, every student rushes up to her to give her a high five as they walk out the building to get on their bus.

"Nurse Nyla has made such a wonderful difference in our school and in the lives of many of our students. She exudes energy and passion, and lifts all of us up at Chapel. Whenever we have a PTA event, or any after school or evening activity, you can be sure that Nurse Nyla is there to support the students." Armistead said. "Nurse Nyla is a LifeChanger and a wonderful human being!"