HOPE: New center reaches out to minority health students

Beatriz Verneaux, Staff Writer

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Student Support Services TRiO Health Occupation Preparation Education Program (HOPE) is returning to Santa Rosa Junior College this fall to advocate for minority and underserved students interested in careers in health sciences.

Program Director Jeannie Dulberg is a former SRJC graduate whose passion to serve the community brought her back to reopen the program that caters to first generation, low-income students and students with disabilities. A successful program existed, but it ended due to lack of funds to keep it.

The college brought back the successful initiative thanks to $1.1 million in TRiO grants, as well as a generous grant from Kaiser Permanente regional offices, which focuses on high school programs.

The program supports high school and SRJC students taking science classes. It also supports participants up to four years after they’ve completed the program at SRJC. It works as a tool to invest in helping young career professionals to enter their career with fewer outside stresses. “It’s a wonderful program,” Dulberg said.

Although the center is currently at capacity, students are encouraged to apply for upcoming semesters, and Dulberg expects to interview newcomers during the spring semester.

“The majority of students face financial challenges,” Dulberg said.

To ensure students’ ability to focus on education, Kaiser Permanente provides a limited emergency fund to help with difficulties.

“If they run into some trouble, we can help them get through that,” Dulberg said, mentioning situations such as cars breaking down.

Once enrolled, students get access to license vocational nursing, English, math, anatomy and physiology tutoring. Academic and personal level counseling is available, as well as a study room, computers, laptops and iPads used in the facilities. Students get assigned to a case specialist and gain personalized assistance in defining the ideal path for reaching academic success.

Counselor Tony Vasquez has been at SRJC for 20 years. Vasquez and other staffers speak Spanish and English, which allows them to connect with a broader range of students.

“Students can be who they are here. They get work done but also can relax and be the person they want to be,” Vasquez said. He believes customer service is a priority at the center.

Vasquez empathizes with students and acknowledges the current economic situation and their workloads (especially in the health science field) which can act as stumbling block to launching as a career according to several HOPE staff members.

“The campus is asking a lot of the students. Be here, find parking, dodge accidents, come on time, leave obligations at home, sit in class, perform work outside, take care of their families, and come here and perform it over again,” Vasquez said. “It’s a load students are taking like never before.”

Andrea Garfia, TRiO program specialist, is a successful example of the way the program runs. As a proud SRJC alumnus from 2007 to 2012, she believes the college and the prior HOPE program has directly influenced her path to success. She transferred to Sacramento State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in health science with emphasis in community health education and a minor in women studies. She’s currently pursuing her masters degree in public health services administration.

As a first generation college graduate, she relates to the struggles students face in the program. “No day is ever the same,” she said. Garfia is responsible for a variety of student outreach projects on campus, as well as coordinating tutoring and administration.

“Academics are always going to be challenging no matter what programs you’re going through,” Garfia said. “When you look at the health science department, some students have worked really hard at simply applying to these programs. Being able to support students in the life science aspect is great, but when you add the component of case management, it makes a big difference.”

Staff members of SSS TRiO HOPE are committed to support students throughout the entire experience of college life. The official opening ceremony will happen 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 13. The event will be located in Emeritus Hall, room 1575.

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