Umoja Community Program with Nursing and Job Placement partnership

Brisa Flores, Reporter

Umoja Community Program has partnered with Nursing and Job Placement to help students be a part of the Umoja Community’s new employment program. 

According to the Bakersfield College (BC)  Website, the Umoja African-American Success Through Excellence and Persistence (ASTEP) is a program that integrates academics, support services, and African-American culture. 

Dr. Paula L. Parks, the ASTEP coordinator, worked alongside  Morgan Clayton, Tel-Tec CEO and the Chairman of the Board at Dignity Hospital, and Dr. Ken Robinson, an ASTEP Advisory Board Member. After an interview with Parks, she shared details about the program and how the partnership came to be. 

Parks said that this employment program has been in the works for two years. The program’s and partners’ objective is to guide students to enter the nursing field.

“We (the partner entities) want to help them enter the nursing field by exposing them to study strategies, helping with the application process, providing access to professionals in the field, helping them clarify their goals/career direction, discussing their strengths, and preparing them to become on-site interns, etc.,” said Parks. 

Parks, Clayton, and Robinson would often meet to discuss the program’s aspects such as the application process, how many students would be a part of the program, funding for the program, what school program would be the “pilot,” etcetera. 

Carla Gard, Director of Nursing at BC, Venessa Reyes, an Educational Advisor for Nursing and Allied Health at BC,  and Victoria “Vikki” Coffee, a Job Development Specialist at and Career expert in the Health Sciences at BC, later became a part of this partnership. 

Parks said, “Carla Gard, Venessa Reyes, and I met a couple of times when I realized that the BC Nursing part and the Employment Prep part with Robinson and Clayton could be combined to prepare students for both the BC nursing program and for a career in nursing.”

Of course, with the pandemic, like most things, Parks and the others had to figure out how to work around COVID, and that included a lot of figuring things out over zoom calls. “The way everything and everyone came together with such synergy was really fortuitous for the Umoja students looking for a career in nursing,” said Parks. 

Alexis Brown is a BC student majoring in Nursing and Kinesiology and dreams of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon. She is also an Umoja student and member of the program; she is a peer mentor for the program and Umoja Club leader. “I was gifted the opportunity to be a part of this by Dr.Parks,” shared Brown. 

“It helps students gain connections in their career path,” said Brown. Brown added that the program helps students gain the confidence to get out of their comfort zone and learn their own learning styles and how to communicate with others. 

From a student perspective, Brown believes this program is amazing for black students to need the extra support they need to succeed in the medical field and gain helpful insight into the medical field. Parks hopes to expand the program to other career paths in the future.