Inspired by an impactful medical mission trip in eighth grade, incoming Illinois State University freshman nursing student Olivia Huettemann can’t wait to help others. In fact, she’s already making a difference.

Huettemann earned a certified nursing assistant (CNA) state certificate last spring and is working at Westminster Village, a retirement community in Bloomington. As a senior at Cornerstone Christian Academy, Huettemann participated in a CNA program through the Bloomington Area Career Center (BACC). She and her classmates developed CNA skills in the classroom that they applied during clinicals at Westminster.

“The experience really confirmed that I wanted to go into nursing,” Huettemann said. “I liked the people so much. The opportunity to talk to patients and serve them is what I enjoyed the most.”

Upon becoming CNA certified, Huettemann was hired by Westminster to work throughout the summer. She plans to continue as a CNA during her freshman year at Illinois State.

“I was excited to become a CNA, independently taking care of people,” Huettemann said. “I’ve actually met a lot of patients who went to ISU, and when I tell them I’m going into the nursing program, they talk highly of it and congratulate me.”

A Bloomington native, Huettemann’s parents are both Illinois State alumni. Her father is a local optometrist who has been on nine mission trips to eight countries around the world, including a trip to Zimbabwe that he took Huettemann on as an eighth grader.

“It was life changing,” she said. Huettemann’s father partnered with a group of optometrists and ophthalmologists to operate a clinic that provided exams and treatment for hundreds of patients. Huettemann assisted patients with selecting glasses and sunglasses after receiving their prescriptions.

“I just fell in love with being able to help people,” she said.

Huettemann said she was “super excited” to be accepted into Illinois State’s Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN), and she is eager to begin learning in MCN’s Nursing Simulation Lab.

“Through my CNA class, I got to visit the nursing sim lab, and it was amazing,” Huettemann said. “It was so cool to see all of the mannequins and patient simulation areas.”

Huettemann said she is also looking forward to experiencing diverse clinical experiences as a nursing student.

“It’ll be interesting going to different places and seeing how different places run and how the ER is compared to the nursing home, for example,” Huettemann said. “I think that’ll definitely help me decide where I want to go in the future. I’m really excited to meet people and be able to help them.”

Along with her involvement with MCN and the Honors Program, Huettemann said she expects to develop personal independence over the next four years as she adjusts to living on campus while being immersed in the college experience.

“I want to be really diligent during my time here and make the most of it,” Huettemann said. “It’s such a good program, and I want to come out as a great nurse. I also want to meet a lot of people here and make lifelong friends.”

Read about all of the students featured in our “Newest Redbirds” series at