New Schools for New Orleans is proud to sponsor the Gambit’s Frontline People Awards, featured in this week’s issue.
Together with the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, we highlighted three education heroes. We’ll be sharing their stories, and others, with you over the coming weeks.
“Nurse Kaci” (Kaci Sexton)
School Nurse, Morris Jeff Community School
Kaci Sexton is in her third year of being the nurse at Morris Jeff Community School. She says her first day feels at once like “just yesterday and a lifetime ago.”
Nurse Kaci was quickly busy addressing the medical needs of Morris Jeff’s students, who are in pre-kindergarten through senior year. But when COVID-19 hit, her work changed. When school buildings closed last spring, Nurse Kaci worked with the school to distribute food and computers to students. While she wasn’t working in-person with students directly, she also began working nights at a local hospital.
“I was feeling that there was just kind of a call for me to go in when so many nurses were struggling and understaffed. So, I took a night job working at the COVID unit at LCMC.”
As school prepared to re-open partially in person this fall, Nurse Kaci worked with the team at Morris Jeff, New Orleans Public Schools, and local hospitals to implement safety protocols and best practices for re-opening. (Now that students and staff are partially back in-person, she is not working at LCMC.) The pandemic has expanded her role.
“Right now, my main job beyond the ‘boo boos,’ and ice packs, and health plans, and tube feedings, is now sort of the COVID healthcare supervisor…teachers have enough on their plates. That’s why I’m here—to assess the students, make sure they’re safe and healthy, and by proxy, keep everyone self and healthy. And I advocate with the teachers and students to make sure we’re here under safe conditions.”
While the logistics of COVID safety can be complex and technical work, Kaci always leads with the heart. COVID-19 has not changed the fact that nursing is, at its core, both medical and interpersonal. When a child comes into her office, they aren’t their symptoms; they’re people. This is true even when that child might be having a tough day or acting out.
“I truly believe in a holistic approach to everything. When you’re met with a student with challenging behavior, it’s so easy to be dismissive and write them off as ‘a troubled kid,’ but…[they’re] just someone that really needs some extra TLC and attention…because once we treat the needs that aren’t being met, then the behavior’s going to change,” she explains.
She says she is grateful for the opportunity to have time and space with young people, no matter the situation.
“The thing I love about nursing is that it gives me an opportunity to connect closely with people…I cherish that, and it’s an honor to get to be a part of that,” she says.
Morris Jeff’s community, and our city, cherish her, too.
Check out our School Heroes video of Nurse Kaci on Facebook!