EDITORIAL: Program offers a path for health care workers

Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.
·3 min read

May 4—When Jawaher Binhamoodah first came to the United States in 2014, she had to work two jobs to make ends meet, all while trying to learn a new language.

"I didn't know where to start," she told reporter Matt Stolle. "I didn't know anything.

Binhamoodah left Somalia and Yemen for a better life in the United States. Now, thanks to the Bridges to Healthcare program, she has found it as a registered nurse at Mayo Clinic.

A collaboration between the Hawthorne Center, Workforce Development, Inc., and Rochester Community and Technical College, Bridges to Healthcare pairs students with a career counselor, called a "navigator," who helps the student overcome obstacles with resources such as tuition, tutoring and transportation.

Since the program was started in 2013, 552 graduates have found work in health care fields, 40 percent at Mayo Clinic.

Riverland Community College is now seeking state funds to create its own program at its campuses in Austin, Albert Lea and Owatonna. But the program, officials say, would be re-invented and scaled to meet the area's own economic needs, with a focus on manufacturing as well as health care.

"We're trying to reach out to a broader network of businesses to help us," said Barbara Embacher, Riverland's vice president for academic and student affairs.

Thumbs up to expanding a proven program that both guides students to success and helps diversify the local workforce.

Becoming American

In 1988, Yong Nhia Lor fled Laos for a new life in the United States. He brought with him a small amount of money from his years as a soldier in Laos, his wife and five children.

Now, 33 years later, the Winona man is ready to become a U.S. citizen like his wife and two of his five Laos-born children.

In 1975, the Laotian king abdicated, leaving the country to its new communist rulers. Lor lived in the Laotian jungles for some time, but the family eventually made its way out of his native country and, with the help of aid organizations, obtained refugee status and immigrated to the United States.

Lor and his family initially settled in St. Paul, where he took English language classes and learned enough to get a job.

After two years in St. Paul, Lor and his family moved to Winona, where he found work in food production.

He worked there until 2006, when a car crash left him severely injured and he was put on disability.

But after 33 years in the U.S., why seek citizenship now?

"Because I plan to live here," Lor said. "I don't think I can ever go back to my homeland. Having my citizenship will give me opportunities. And it lets my family know we are settled here."

Thumbs up to Lor for making the commitment to a new country.

Consider the source

The call to action spread like wildfire on social media.

Rochester Public Schools, the posts said, had directed its teaching staff to "remove any 'Black Lives Matter' material from their classrooms."

"Some teachers were so appalled at the message they received, that they felt the need to expose, and organize to rail against what was being communicated," Rochester For Justice, a social advocacy group, said in part in a Facebook post.

Trouble is, there was no such directive from the schools.

Heather Nessler, executive director of communications for the district, said the confusion apparently came from a question during a district leadership meeting.

"During that conversation, there was never a directive to remove posters/flags or disallow wearing BLM apparel," she said.

Thumbs down to online rumors. Hear the facts before you react and depend on trusted media sources.