October 10, 2008

A Tale of Two Graduates

By Myra Saturen, Northampton Community College

Talk about serendipity! Or call it two people with one mission finding each other. The two, both recent college graduates, were able to connect to fulfill their mission of helping others through their involvement in the service-learning program at Northampton Community College (NCC) in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Eunice Juma came to Bethlehem from her native Kenya, where she had worked as an administrator in a home-based health care service for people with HIV and AIDS. Her quest to help people led her to enroll two years later in the social work program at NCC.

Juma chose to apply her devotion to service through the service-learning option in a course on local and state government. She was assigned to the Salvation Army of Bethlehem, an agency that helps people secure food, clothing, and job information. “Service-learning opened my eyes to how people suffer in America,” she says, adding that it also taught her ways of helping people in a social service environment.

Juma’s experience at the Salvation Army had another important outcome: shortly after receiving her associate degree in 2006, Juma became the agency’s assistant director. The following year she was promoted to director of social services and the agency’s Learning Zone.

Juma’s many responsibilities included the after-school program for young people. Seeking to combine her interests in health care and service, she thought: wouldn’t it be wonderful to have cooking classes for children and teens, aimed at preparing nutritional meals on a budget? Seeking a volunteer cooking teacher, she called NCC Service-Learning Administrator Debra Bohr. Bohr contacted Scott Kalamar, an associate professor of culinary arts.

As luck would have it, just a few weeks later Kalamar received another phone call, from former student Renee D’Almeida. D’Almeida had graduated from NCC’s culinary arts program, where she had earned an associates degree while working part-time and taking care of her three children. At the college, she found instructors who were “inspiring, encouraging, generous, and helpful.”

After graduating, D’Almeida had gone on to work for the catering department of Lafayette College. A passionate volunteer, D’Almeida remembered the support she received at NCC and wanted to give back. Seeking to volunteer somewhere as a cook, she called Scott Kalamar, and through him reached Eunice Juma. Before long, the women were planning cooking classes for children ages 8–16, to be taught by D’Almeida. They created classes with an element of improvisation, encouraging the youngsters to venture into cabinets and create dishes with whatever they found there. Their plans also included involving the children’s parents so they can learn along with their children.

While Juma and D’Almeida collaborate at the Salvation Army, they are each pursuing additional goals. Juma is continuing her education as a health education major at East Stroudsburg University. Ultimately, she would like to return to Kenya and resume her work with AIDS patients. D’Almeida hopes to supplement her interest in nutrition with a nursing degree. She wants to help women who are getting on their feet learn to cook healthful and inexpensive meals. For now, both are happy to be working on a project dear to their hearts.

No comments: