El Camino College Foundation Awards Over $18,000 in Grants for Students in Health Care Programs
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El Camino College Foundation Awards Over $18,000 in Grants for Students in Health Care Programs

When Midori Norris enrolled in the El Camino College Nursing Program, she considered it a second chance to do exactly what she always wanted – become a nurse. After starting and stopping college several years ago, this time she was ready and there was nothing in her way. 

Until the pandemic. With her elementary school-age daughters now at home full time and her own busy day of nursing schoolwork, she was unable to keep her job, making it difficult to cover her bills. Just when she was about ready to quit nursing school, a grant from the El Camino College Foundation changed everything.  

“This grant came at the perfect time,” Norris said. “I was really struggling. Honestly, I almost gave up and dropped out. If it wasn’t for this grant, I was ready to go into the nursing office and tell them I had to stop. I’m so glad I didn’t. I am really grateful for all the help. I can’t believe how much they care.” 

Norris is among the many students in the El Camino College Nursing Program who will benefit from $7,100 in funding recently supplied by the First Response Healthcare Student Support Fund. The El Camino College Foundation administers the grant program designed to help students struggling from the financial impacts of COVID-19 so they can continue with their classes and complete their education. 

Created by the Foundation for California Community Colleges, in partnership with the CCC Chancellor’s Office, the First Response Fund is designed to help students statewide advance in health care fields. This is the second round of funds administered under the guidelines of the Campaign for Relief and Recovery. El Camino previously received $5,500 for the nursing program in May, in addition to a $5,500 grant for students in the college’s respiratory care program. Overall, the Foundation was able to award about $500 grants to 34 deserving El Camino students. 

“We are extremely grateful for the support of the First Response Fund that ensures students have access to emergency financial aid at the time they need it most,” said El Camino College President Dena P. Maloney. “These funds will truly make a difference in the lives of our students.” 

Norris enrolled in El Camino after a high school and college experience where she didn’t focus on classwork, stumbled without support, and lacked the motivation to set goals. Raised in Torrance among a family full of medical professionals, she aspired to become a nurse, but put that idea on hold to raise her two daughters and pursue a job in the entertainment industry. Finally, she decided to follow her dreams toward a nursing career. After researching many schools, Norris chose El Camino because of its tradition of academic excellence and consistently high licensure exam pass rates. She makes the drive from her home in North Orange County and says the commute is worth it. 

“I really believe in this program; I like the process and the teaching methods,” Norris said. “I feel prepared for my exams and now that I started my clinical work, I still feel prepared. I was actually surprisingly not nervous when I met my first patient. I adapted really fast to patient care. I think I have a high level of motivation and dedication to nursing. This is my passion and now I am more determined than ever to make it happen.” 

When El Camino closed in March due to COVID-19, the college quickly moved instruction online and faculty found ways to connect with students on virtual platforms. Although the campus remains closed, many nursing courses, including labs, are taking place in person, following guidelines set out by the governor designed to continue the training and staffing of essential sectors during the pandemic.  

Keeping students on track with their coursework helps them progress with their academic and career goals so they can contribute to the state’s pressing need to increase the number of potential workers in the health care system. 

Norris plans to graduate in June 2022 and is looking forward to a nursing career in cardiology. She credits her success and confidence in her work to El Camino faculty and staff members. 

“I’ve had many teachers who took extra time to help me with my classes,” she said. “They didn’t have to do that; they went above and beyond to help me. That turned me around. No one ever took the time to help me like that. 

“To me, being at El Camino means that one day I will have a better life, my daughters will have a better life, and my professors are making sure I’m successful. Because of El Camino, my daughters see me studying every day and they know that I’m not giving up. This then motivates them in their own schoolwork, and they have become more independent. Being at El Camino has been good for me and good for my girls.”

November 16, 2020