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The Case for First Generation Scholars

St. Mary’s Academy prepares young women to impact the world. Each tie color transforms a four-year experience into a legacy of alumnae, women of distinction. My name is Wenonah Valentine, Blue Tie ’72, founder and executive director of iDREAM for Racial Health Equity and community partner with the SMA Health Careers Program.

September is National Infant Mortality Awareness Month and I stand as a champion for Black mothers and babies. My experience as a first-generation scholar and student mother informs and guides faculty, student, staff and community relationships to eliminate racial health disparities and infant mortality in the LA region and nationwide.

USC/iDREAM Summer Enrichment Program

“I am driven to become involved with teens in an underserved community because I grew up in one. I want to contribute by being a (future) mentor in an organization that presents teens an opportunity to learn about the different career paths in healthcare.”
Bertha Gonzales, Gold Tie ’14

The USC/iDREAM collaboration demonstrates a concrete response to prepare first-generation scholars with a different vision for their future and widening their perspective around working with cultural competence and decision-making in the healthcare industry. The university-community partnership is a year-round initiative focused on four pillars: career exploration and skill-building cohorts, internships, service learning and networking.

The mission of the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy is to educate the future leaders of an increasingly complex and uncertain world. The Diversity in Healthcare Leadership Initiative, established in 2002 by LaVonna B. Lewis, PhD, MPH, addresses an important workforce issue by focusing on improving the participation of first-generation college students and recent graduates in, and ensuring diversity among, healthcare leaders.

Dr. Lewis’ research interests consistently focuses on cultural competency and the health status and health care needs in South LA neighborhoods. In 2010, Dr. Lewis teamed up with Ms. Valentine’s extensive background in nonprofit leadership and national health initiatives to improve birth outcomes. They forged a competitive summer enrichment program and “near-peer” learning experience for future healthcare leaders.

“I am driven to make a change because I am passionate about helping autistic children. I want to contribute diligence, fun and consistency in an organization that helps fulfill the needs of autistic children.” Nichaele Watson, Gold Tie ’14

For more information about the 2014 Summer Enrichment Programs, contact:
Wenonah Valentine, MBA LaVonna B. Lewis, PhD, MPH
iDREAM for Racial Health Equity USC Diversity in Healthcare Leadership
Director of iDREAM Institute Director of Undergraduate Programs
wvalentine@idreamnow.org llewis@price.usc.edu

The iDREAM Learning Institute: Pipeline to Promise

The iDREAM Summer Learning Institute hosted its 2013 skill-building cohort at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. Seven Millennial leaders ( 3 high school students, 2 undergraduates and 2 post-baccalaureates) received training in organizational theory of change and community-based participatory evaluation; aligned faith and health assets; presented individual vision boards; formed teams; and presented their ideas for iDREAM initiatives. Since 2011, three student cohorts responded to a stubborn and persistent health issue documented in Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? (2008) that stated Black college grads have worse birth outcomes than White women who dropped out of high school. They engaged in “deep talk” around chronic stress, internalized racism and early onset of cardiovascular disease (i.e., hypertension, diabetes, obesity). They gained a deeper understanding of qualitative data – personal stories- that framed a context for the social determinants of health and the life course perspective. Skill-building strengthens their capacity as decision-makers and serves as an orientation for internships and mentoring.

2011-2013 Alumni Ambassadors and Millennial Leaders Advisory Council:
*Diversity in Healthcare Leadership Initiative (successful completion of the career exploration cohort)

Melat Begashaw, BA 2014, International Development Studies, UCLA*
Meron Begashaw, BA 2012, Anthropology, UCLA
Asia Frazier, Diploma 2016, South Region 2 High School
Nurisha Ficklin, BA 2017, Biology/Pre-Med, CSU Long Beach
Bertha Gonzales, Diploma 2014, St. Mary’s Academy High School*
Lauren Hoyd, BA 2015, Theater, Film & Television (minor), USC
Aja King, BA 2013, Black Studies and Film & Media Studies, UC Santa Barbara
Leora Kirk, BS 2015, Health Administration, CSU Northridge
Mimi Ly, BA 2013, International Development Studies, UCLA and Program Assistant, iDREAM Cohort 3
Alexis Perryman, BA 2013, UC Davis, Human Development*
Julio Cesar Reyes, BA 2011, Sociology, Occidental College*
Abigail Shoaf, BA 2012, Christian Ministry, Faculty of Theology
Dina Trang, USC School of Pharmacy, BS 2013, Bio-Chemistry, UCLA
Elena Trang, BS 2014, Bio-Chemistry, UCLA*
Velvet Johnson Watkin, BS 2013, Health Administration, CSU Bakersfield
Nichaele Watson, Diploma 2014, St. Mary’s Academy High School
Christina White, Diploma 2014, Pacifica Christian High School

“Words cannot even begin to describe how very thankful I am to have met you. This past Semester (spring 2013) gave me truly invaluable knowledge and skills that I know will stay with me forever. You mentored me into an excited, driven, and prepared professional.”
Gabriella Galdamez, Masters in Public Health Program, CSUN
BS 2013, CSUN, Public Health Education/Promotion Option and SMART Moms Awards Intern

iDREAM INSTITUTE FACULTY: Kimlin T. Ashing, PhD, Center of Community Alliance for Research and Education (CCARE)-City of Hope National Medical Center; Michael Harris, MHA; LaVonna B. Lewis, PhD, MPH; Theresa McFaddin Ordell, Claris Health; Meridith Merchant, PhD, iDREAM faculty advisor; Derrick Mims, 59th Assembly District Director, Markell Steele Morris, Futures-in-Motion, Inc.; Deborah Pierce, Key Hairstylist and Wenonah Valentine, MBA. CONTRIBUTORS: Annenberg Foundation, Keck Medical Center of USC, La Taquiza Restaurant, USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and private donors.

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