Juntos Podemos mentoring program helps disadvantaged nursing students

West Side resident earns degree, heading to graduate school

SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 2, 2012) — When Norma Martinez Rogers, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, a nursing professor, arrived at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, she noticed that Hispanic students were starting at the School of Nursing but, compared to other students, not as many were completing their education.

A West Side native, Dr. Rogers earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of the Incarnate Word. “When I attended there, the school provided me help from a big sister. She helped me navigate the program. That was invaluable to me.”

Thirteen years ago – with $5,000 in initial funding – Dr. Rogers created Juntos Podemos, which means “together we can” in English, as a mentoring program initially involving 20 Hispanic students. It has now evolved into a program for all disadvantaged nursing students. The program pairs first-year nursing students with second- and third-year nursing students.

Juntos Podemos now has 301 students in the program, and they have logged 1,007 visits to the program’s office in the nursing school since school began this year. Over the years, Dr. Rogers has received more than $1 million in funding for this project.

“This program helps everyone involved. The mentors receive a small stipend that helps with their educational expenses while the protégés receive guidance and encouragement on how to balance school, work and home life in order to become successful nursing students,” she said. “More than 98 percent of the students who participate in Juntos Podemos are academically successful.”

Dr. Rogers said an important key to the program’s success is matching mentors and new students who have similar lives or backgrounds, such as a single parent to another single parent.

The mentors help their mentees with content review to prepare them for tests. “Sometimes a nursing student may be too intimidated to ask a professor for clarification, but they feel comfortable asking another student. And, the mentor often can explain on a level they understand,” Dr. Roger said.

She said all first-semester students are invited to the orientation for Juntos Podemos. The program is explained to all students so they understand how they can benefit.

One student who decided to participate in the program was Rosalinda Barrientos, who also grew up on the West Side. Barrientos, who recently graduated with a bachelor of science in nursing, is currently working as a graduate assistant for the program.

In the spring, Barrientos will head to Boston College to begin a master’s/Ph.D. program in nursing.

“I took Rosalinda to Boston so she could see the university and learn about the program. She decided to go there and was accepted into their graduate program. After earning her graduate degree, she wants to return to San Antonio and practice nursing here,” she explained.

Until Barrientos leaves in the spring to begin graduate school, she will work each day to help first-year students in the Juntos Podemos office so they may one day follow in her footsteps.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $231 million in fiscal year 2011. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 28,000 graduates. The $736 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg.For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,”   visit www.uthscsa.edu.

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