In the community

A Vale student follows her passions with a life-saving senior project

From left, Betty Duncan, Barbara Ray, Baylee Tolman and Sharon Mahan pose for a photo at the Vale Senior Citizens Center. (Photo courtesy of Baylee Tolman)

VALE — Baylee Tolman was 12 when her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011. 

For the next five years, Tolman stood by her mother, Lisa Ann Tolman, with unwavering support. She would accompany her at doctor appointments, go with her to treatments and spend nights with her at the hospital. 

But the cancer spread. 

Tolman’s mother died at home four and a half years later at the age of 44. 

During her mother’s battle with cancer, Tolman developed a deep love for the nurses and nursing assistants who took care and made sure her mother was as comfortable as possible during hospital stays. Their compassion and empathy was inspiring, and they instilled a passion in Tolman for medical care.

Now 17, she is on a path to become a nurse.

For her senior project at Vale High School, Tolman raised over $1,000 to get two automated external defibrillators (AEDs) installed at locations in her community that needed it the most – the Vale Senior Citizens Center and Malheur Drug. 

“I was surprised when I heard that the senior center didn’t have an AED before,” she said. “It’s very useful for cardiac-related emergencies. It increases the survival rate. They were so glad to get one.”

She said Malheur Drug wanted one, since it is the town’s pharmacy and people go there to get their medicine. The pharmacy is owned and operated by Adam and Jennifer Tolman, who reached out to Vale High School’s senior project instructor, Jessie Cox, about the idea of setting up more AEDs in the downtown corridor.

Beginning in August, Tolman raffled off donated blankets at football games and local events. She organized and co-taught a CPR workshop in Vale, where she charged each participant $25. 

“I wish I could’ve done more CPR classes to raise more money,” said Tolman. “I wanted to get one for Logan’s Market, too.”

Tolman said she’s open to hosting another CPR workshop in Vale if enough people are interested. Next spring, she plans to start working as a nursing assistant.

A licensed certified nursing assistant since June, Tolman completed her CNA coursework during her junior year in high school. But she was too young to start working.

“In Oregon, you can’t start working as a CNA until you’re 18. It might be different in other states, but that’s the law here,” she said.

Tolman said her goal is to work at Pioneer Place Assisted Living in Vale.

“I did my clinicals at Pioneer Place and I like their staff. They’re really great,” said Tolman. “I shadowed all the CNAs and nurses, and they trained me how to do a lot of things.”

After graduation, she plans to enroll in Treasure Valley Community College’s nursing program and work as a CNA at the same time. Tolman said she wants to work at a nursing home before moving to a large hospital.

Tolman plans to save enough money by the time she gets her associate’s degree so that she can transfer to a four-year university such as Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

After graduating from a four-year university, she hopes to land a job as a travel nurse first and then eventually become a pediatric oncology nurse – a nurse who specializes in caring for kids with cancer.

Reporter Kristine de Leon: [email protected] or (541) 473-3377.