NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The importance of good mentors can’t be overestimated.
That was a major motivation behind the formation of a new student group at Bethel College, which has turned out to be the only one of its kind in the country.
At the end of July, Nikkii Dolce, senior nursing major and chair of the Bethel College student chapter of National Black Nurses Association (NBNA), attended the organization’s national conference in Atlanta, traveling with officers from the Wichita chapter of NBNA, under whose wing the Bethel group was organized.
That happened a year ago. When Debra Davis, who graduated from Bethel in May with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, came as a junior, she said, she and some of her peers “looked around and saw what we wanted wasn’t here in terms of [black role models for] leadership and empowerment in the nursing profession.”
Thelma Latrice Moses, who also graduated in May with her nursing degree, added, “We wanted something for minority [nursing] students that would get people actively involved in leadership. We were looking for mentors.”
Davis’s friend Anniece Berry, a nurse at Via Christi-Good Shepherd in Wichita, was also the president of the Wichita chapter of NBNA. So Davis and Moses joined the organization but they discovered that there was no student component, similar to the National Student Nurses’ Association.
“We wrote to the [NBNA] to see if they would approve us starting the first student chapter,” said Moses. They got approval, as long as the group was organized under the auspices of the Wichita chapter. Davis and Moses served as co-chairs of Bethel’s first NBNA group, which had about 20 members in its first year. Dolce, Marla Bell and Patricia Ngigi are this year’s officers.
For Dolce, the highlight of the Atlanta convention came at the closing brunch, where the speaker was Loretta Sweet Jemmott, a professor in the school of nursing and director of the Center for Health Disparities Research at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. A Parade magazine profile described Jemmott as “the nation’s leading expert on HIV prevention in teens.”
Dolce was interested in Jemmott’s presentation (about strategies for helping women avoid HIV infection, a program that proved so effective that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adopted a version of it) because she had worked in a similar program when she was a student at the University of Kansas, she said.
Even more important, however, Dolce said, was that Jemmott “was so excited – she had that whole room of nurses excited about her program. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s amazing [what she was able to do].’ A lot of people think nurses can’t do things like that. Nurses aren’t only the ones who take your temperature and record your weight. They can do all kinds of things.”
The Bethel NBNA group’s main activities thus far have been fundraising to endow scholarships for nursing students – leaders emphasize that anyone of any race may apply for these. NBNA members had a mini health fair at last year’s Fall Festival and also participated in a larger local health fair. They contributed some of the money that allowed Dolce to attend the NBNA national convention, with the Wichita chapter putting in the rest.
This year, the group hopes to add to its membership, both with Bethel nursing students and interested students from other area nursing programs. The Bethel NBNA is open to them since it is an arm of the Wichita chapter, Dolce said.
“Going to the conference made me really excited,” she said. “I look forward to all the possibilities [it raised]. I met a lot of new nurses and some students, who were there because other [experienced] nurses had made it possible for them to attend. The mentoring is so important.”
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the highest ranked Kansas college in the national liberal arts category of U.S. News & World Report’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.