As we celebrate Black History Month, we examine how the Pan African Nursing Student and Alumni Association came to be and its important contributions to students of color at the UCLA School of Nursing.
In 1988, Dr. Anita Bralock, currently a faculty member at the School of Nursing, 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. Along came Rhonda Flenoy-Younger, former Director of Recruitment and Admissions, who 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.
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. Over the years, PANSAA continues to stand as a great example of the success and endurance of a student organization that has made a difference for so many.
PANSAA assists in 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. PANSAA plays a role in recruitment by encouraging individuals who might be interested in enrolling at UCLA Nursing, or reaching out to those who have been accepted to the School to attend the meetings. These potential students have benefited from mentorship, networking and guidance of alumni too.
“One of the great benefits of this organization is that the relationships continue long after they graduate,” said Flenoy-Younger.
In 2018, a scholarship fund was set up to support the association and celebrate the contributions of Flenoy-Younger. The scholarship fund named after Flenoy-Younger, who retired in 2019, honors her and the vital role she played in supporting students of color at UCLA Nursing. The School of Nursing Rhonda Flenoy-Younger PANSAA Scholarship Fund supports PANSAA members who demonstrate high academic merit and financial need. Any student who is a member of PANSAA, regardless of race or ethnicity, is eligible. Keeping this scholarship available for students is of utmost importance as it supports the next generation of diversity.
“Black History Month is essential to the UCLA School of Nursing PANSAA organization, as it showcases hundreds of members who are both alumni and current students who find the impact of receiving scholarships as a foundation of academic success,” remarked Mark Covin, current Director of Recruitment, Outreach & Admission at UCLA Nursing.