In 1988, Dr. Anita Bralock, now program director, prelicensure programs, was a master’s student and one of three African-American students in the nursing program. Deciding they wanted to “give each other encouragement and lift each other up,” said Dr. Bralock, they formed the African-American Nurses Association.
The small group started by celebrating milestones such as completing their thesis and commencement. But their ultimate goal was to create an organization that would continue on after they had graduated. To do that, the group needed to be recognized as an official organization, which required developing a mission, creating a board with officers and having a faculty advisor.
Rhonda Flenoy-Younger, now Director of Recruitment and Admissions, became the coordinator for the group in 1992. That year, the group’s focus expanded to include a formal mentorship program. Every September, when the students would start school, alumni would offer support and guidance while upper classmates would select first and second year students to mentor.
“One of the great benefits of this organization is that the relationships continue long after they graduate,” said Flenoy-Younger who has seen new students join every year and continue to be involved long after commencement.
Dr. Bralock agrees. “One year I was paired with Carol White and we’ve been friends ever since. We’ve been there for every milestone – weddings, births, graduations – and supported each other in our careers.”
In 2003, the group changed its name to PANSAA – Pan African Nursing Student and Alumni Association – acknowledging that not all students of African descent are African-American.
Approaching its 30th year, PANSAA stands as a great example of the success and endurance of a student organization that has made a difference for so many.
The organization meets four times a year – including a holiday celebration with a gift exchange and a year – end celebration for graduation. While the original end-of-the-year celebration was a dinner for just the members and their families, it has now expanded to be a “rites of passage” ceremony with parents, family and friends invited and has included entertainment by African drummers, praise dancers and singers.
“ONE OF THE GREAT BENEFITS OF THIS ORGANIZATION IS THAT THE RELATIONSHIPS CONTINUE LONG AFTER THEY GRADUATE. SO MANY OF THE GRADUATES REACH OUT TO TELL OF JOB OPENINGS AND ATTEND FUNDRAISERS. “
PANSAA assists in recruiting and retaining students of color. Membership is not limited to black students – and over the past few years, participation has included Latino and Asian students. PANSAA also welcomes students of color from other schools who are looking for that same support and encouragement.
The members also have a strong sense of community and have taken on several projects over the years. Currently they are working with “A New Way of Life,” a transitional home for women who were formerly incarcerated and are now on parole. The home is in Watts and most of the residents are minority women.
PANSAA has also encouraged individuals who might be interested in enrolling in the School, or those who have been accepted to attend the meetings. They too have benefited from mentorship, networking and guidance of alumni.
Sage Sims, a third-year BS student in 2016, finds great value in PANSAA. Sim’s journey to becoming a nursing student was inspired by a family friend, who, ironically, was a member of PANSAA. When Sims started looking at colleges, the friend brought her to a PANSAA meeting.
“I like the fact that these members know the experiences we go through as African-Americans and can provide great advice and support.”