SBCC Nursing students.
SBCC Nursing students Flordeliz Gallano, Buena Flores, and Yesenia Luna received scholarships through the SBCC Foundation that help cover program expenses, including books, supplies, and travel to clinical sites. (Santa Barbara City College Foundation photo)

As the current health crisis has served to remind us, nurses and other health care professionals are indispensable.

We rely on them day in and day out. But at no time in recent history have our health care workers played such a central role in our community, as we seek their leadership and experience to guide us through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the California Community Colleges, 70% of California’s nurses are trained at community colleges.

This is also true for other first responders – firefighters, police, paramedics, medical technicians, and others. In our community, we are fortunate to have the Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) School of Nursing, offering programs that rank among the top in the nation. 

“I’ve learned so much through the SBCC nursing program, and our teacher is so knowledgeable and supportive,” said Yesenia Luna, a student in the Vocational Nursing (VN) program, speaking about Rosette Strandberg, a registered nurse who is a professor and also the director of the Vocational Nursing Program. 

Buena Flores is also in SBCC’s VN program, and adds, “Rosette is amazing. She has worked incredibly hard to make sure our education continues online during the health emergency.” 

Tatiana Speier is an SBCC Promise student pursuing her associate degree in nursing.

Tatiana Speier is an SBCC Promise student pursuing her associate degree in nursing. (Santa Barbara City College Foundation photo)

Aside from the current emergency, an ongoing challenge facing many nursing students is the need to cover expenses – textbooks, uniforms, personal medical supplies, and travel to clinical sites.

Buena and a number of her fellow students were awarded scholarships through the SBCC Foundation to help cover these program costs.

Yesenia said, “The scholarship really makes a difference, helping to pay for travel to clinical sites in Lompoc and Santa Maria, stethoscopes, books, and fees for exams.” 

The SBCC Foundation offers over $1 million in scholarships annually, including approximately $110,000 that are specifically for nursing students.

Funding for scholarships and the nursing program comes to the Foundation from hundreds of individual donors, as well as from private organizations and foundations, including a very generous partnership with Cottage Health.

Buena and Yesenia, along with others in the VN program, plan to continue their education by applying to SBCC’s Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program so they can become registered nurses.

One of the scholarships through the SBCC Foundation (with funding from the Thatcher Foundation) provides $3,000 automatically to each SBCC VN student who advances to the ADN program.

“This is such a huge support for our school of nursing and a beautiful message to our students that their professional growth is supported by the Foundation,” said Rosette, VN Program Director.

Many SBCC graduates entering the nursing field decide to stay local. Buena’s goal is to work at Cottage Hospital, where she works now as a certified nursing assistant, as an acute care nurse.

Flordeliz Gallano, who also received a scholarship, finds the Santa Barbara community to be very welcoming and also plans to stay.

“This is a life-changing experience for me,” Flordeliz said, “as I will be able to put my skills and knowledge to work in helping and comforting people.”

As a single mom pursuing her associate degree in nursing, Meridith Grodin is thankful for the scholarships she’s received through the Foundation. They have allowed her to focus on her education.

“I feel fortunate to receive the scholarships, and also to be studying nursing at SBCC. It’s an advanced program that’s quite rigorous. My instructor Linda Macias is deeply knowledgeable – she’s been working in the field for so long!” 

Tatiana Speier, the daughter of an emergency room doctor, has known since she was in high school that she wanted to be a nurse. Fortunately, she attended SBCC as a dual enrollment student in high school and then full-time after graduating.

For all recent, local high school graduates, the SBCC Promise covers all fees, books, and supplies at SBCC for two years.

All of Tatiana’s general education requirements and some of her nursing coursework were free. A project of the SBCC Foundation, the Promise relies entirely on private donations.

Tatiana is grateful for the support, and excited about her future career in nursing.

She says, “Thank you to Santa Barbara City College and the SBCC Foundation for everything you’ve done for my education!”