After 21 years as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Thomas Polak IV decided to return to school to become a Registered Nurse (RN). Polak choose to attend Brookdale Community College’s nursing program because of the stellar reputation of the program. “I had heard so many positive experiences from friends, I realized there was no other choice than Brookdale,” he said.

Since Polak was already an LPN, he was able to apply for the advanced placement LPN to RN challenge. To be accepted into the program, students must attend an orientation, pass a math test, validate their nursing skills, participate in simulations and complete other requirements. If accepted, students can earn credit for three required courses or 11 credits, towards their AAS degree in Nursing.
Picture of Beth Stryker.

“From the moment I stepped foot on the campus of Brookdale, I have had the privilege of meeting phenomenal staff members during my process in registration, including everyone at One Stop, especially Beth Stryker,” said Polak. Stryker, enrollment specialist in admissions and registration, helps guide nursing students through the admissions process, and Polak said she was extremely helpful.

Polak said the decision to return to school wasn’t easy, but he knew if he wanted to obtain his goal of becoming a director of nursing, furthering his education was key.

“It had been a very long time since I had been in school, and I was aware that this will be a challenge,” he said.

Brookdale faculty members helped in the transition back to school for Polak. “The faculty at Brookdale are second to no one,” he said. “No one could have prepared me for this journey better than each one of my professors with their excellent instruction.” He particularly noted Joan Santa Croce as an inspiration who played a major role in his success.Picture of Tricia Daloia Gandolfo.

Polak also cited Tricia D’Aloia Gandolfo, nursing instructor, as being extremely helpful. “Her inspirational words, kindness and understanding have been the nurturing I needed to get through this transition phase in school, and I owe my success to her,” said Polak.


“I have truly been blessed with an experience that has surpassed all of my expectations as a student at Brookdale.”

-Thomas Polak

Polak said the small class sizes were also key to his success “The ability to learn is so much more intensive here and personal because of the ratio of teachers to students,” said Polak, who is a member of Brookdale’s chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success.

Not only is Polak succeeding academically, but he is also forging new relationships while at Brookdale. “It is difficult to explain, but every person that I’ve met on this campus has become a part of me,” he said. “When I see people from two years ago come up to me and say hello, this is not something you experience in a large school where people come and go,” said Polak. “I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to know all of these wonderful individuals,” he said.

“There are so many programs available to you on the Brookdale campus, regardless of which campus, there is no reason to get your degree at another college,” Polak said. “I have truly been blessed with an experience that has surpassed all of my expectations as a student at Brookdale,” Polak said.

Polak recommended students in the health science majors take the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) as soon as possible. This test can be taken once all foundational studies classes are completed. “When students wait, they don’t get put on the waitlist until the test is taken, and then students complain about the waitlist,” Polak said.

Polak’s advice to all students, returning students as well as traditional students, is to keep going. “If you focus on the prize, it will be attainable, and never put off your education for experience,” he said. “Although it is never too late, it is an awful lot easier when you are young.”