Danny Bragg, left, and son, Zach, both graduated from the Licensed Practical Nursing program offered on the Mayo Campus of Big Sandy Community and Technical College in May 2013.  The father and son duo intend to continue their education in nursing in the pursuit of both short- and long-term goals.Danny Bragg and son, Zach, enrolled in Big Sandy Community and Technical College through very different paths but on their graduation day in May 2013, they both walked across the stage as graduates of the Licensed Practical Nursing (L.P.N.) program.

As a student at Prestonsburg High School, Zach knew college was in his future but he had no idea what he wanted to major in. He even briefly considered following in his fathers footsteps and taking a job as a coal miner, a job that would keep him from being stuck behind a desk and offered a living wage. He never thought he wanted to have anything to do with the medical field, until he participated in a mentoring program at the high school that placed him at a local hospital for some job shadowing. It was there he learned that he actually enjoyed the working environment at the hospital and enjoyed helping people. That realization led him to choose the field of nursing and, after graduating from high school, he enrolled in Big Sandy Community and Technical College to begin the classroom work that would move him towards his goal.

In the meantime, Danny had two life-altering events occur. First, he was laid off from the mines during the economic downturn and second, he had to helplessly sit by and watch his diabetic father suffer through a variety of health complications due to his illness. Those events led Danny to the realization that he needed to pursue a different career path in which he wouldnt have to worry about being laid off and one in which he could do something that would make a difference. He decided to follow his sons lead and chose the field of nursing.

His opportunity to pursue a college education came through the federal WIA (Workforce Investment Act) Program, whose mission is to increase the employment and job retention of U.S. workers. As a displaced coal miner, Bragg qualified to participate in the program which in turn paid for his college education.

While working as a coal miner, Danny Bragg had already completed an Associates Degree in Business through an online university. He was then pleased to find that a majority of those credit hours transferred into Big Sandy Community and Technical College.

The Fall 2011 semester found both father and son on campus together and the Spring 2012 semester actually had them taking a few classes together. While pursuing their nursing prerequisite courses, both father and son applied to the extremely competitive Registered Nurse program in Spring 2011 but were not selected.

Refusing to be discouraged, they continued with their courses and in Spring 2012 attended a nursing pre-admission conference on the colleges Pikeville campus.
During the conference, the students were invited to sign-up to apply to either the R.N. or L.P.N. programs. There were three pages of signatures on the R.N. list and only one signature on the L.P.N. list. After some consideration, they both signed up on the L.P.N. list and were later notified they had been accepted into the program.

Getting accepted into the program was the first challenge; making it through the program was the next, and it was demanding. Class schedules were divided into bi-terms and classes were five days a week, eight hours a day. Evenings and weekends were devoted to studying.

However, according to both Danny and Zach, caring, quality instructors made all the difference. Kim DeRossett, Tonya Workman and Nancy Conn all work so well together, they said. The instructors cared about the individuals and did what they could to help you succeed, the Braggs stated.

Both father and son graduated from the program in May 2013 and completed their practicum for the program during the summer. However, neither of them intends to stop there. Both father and son intend to apply to the Registered Nurse program through Jefferson Community and Technical College, which is offered online in a modularized format. This will enable the two to work while pursuing their next degree. To supplement the online learning, they will also be required to drive to the Jefferson campus in Louisville once each month for a full day of labs with skill set demonstrations.

For their long-term plans, Danny, 47, intends to stop at the R.N. degree. His wife, an educator in the Floyd County school system, will be eligible to retire within a few years. Danny would like to become a traveling nurse so he can work in different locations throughout the U.S. and he and his wife can travel together.

Zach, 22, is considering the possibility of continuing his education beyond the R.N. with the goal of becoming a Nurse Practitioner.

And their long, long terms plans are even more ambitious. Dannys daughter is majoring in pre-med at the University of Pikeville with the goal of becoming a pediatric physician. She would like to unite the family in a medical practice one day so they can all work together in service to local youth.

Although Danny Bragg had to endure an abrupt mid-life career change, the journey with his son has been a positive one. I was blessed with the opportunity to be able to go (through college and the nursing program) with him and thats something that very, very few people get to do, he said. Whats more is he was able to pursue his education with 100 percent support from his wife and kids.

If all goes according to plan, Danny has a lot to look forward to. One day, in the not too distant future, perhaps hell get the opportunity to work with both his son and daughter in a Bragg pediatric practiceblessed, indeed.