With some trepidation, Jameelah Hairston enrolled at the College in 2017, unsure she would be successful in higher education. This week, she will graduate with her Nursing degree from Community College of Philadelphia.
“I stopped and started at the College after high school. For the past 20 years, I’ve worked in health care. I’ve been a psychiatric technician, EMT and Certified Nurse Assistant,” Jameelah said.
Jameelah’s knowledge impressed the nurses and doctors she worked with, and they recognized her potential.
“I had learned more than I realized, and they told me I needed to go back to school,” said Jameelah.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, she briefly relocated to Maryland, where she was working two jobs at times. She began taking classes there, but still the uncertainly lingered.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to go follow through with it,” she said.
While still in Maryland, she transferred to the College and began taking online classes, returning to Philadelphia in 2017 to care for her ill mother. Knowing entry into the Nursing program was difficult, she applied anyway.
“I didn’t think I was going to get in,” she said.
As part of their training, Nursing students take their skills to the community under faculty supervision. Jameelah and her classmates have assisted with COVID-19 screening, testing and education with the Hub of Hope, Broad Street Ministry and Philadelphia FIGHT, helping homeless and other vulnerable populations in the city. Jameelah was also one of 12 Dr. Andrea Mengel interns, an initiative funded by the Independence Foundation, that provided funding for 12 past and present CCP Nursing students to serve on the frontlines of the pandemic.
“People were so grateful to be treated well and heard—I learned the importance of community nursing and outreach,” she said.
After taking her RN exam, Jameelah plans to seek a position in a fast-paced environment, such as the emergency room or intensive care unit. She may also pursue a bachelor’s in Nursing.
“It’s hard to go to school. It’s even harder to go back to school after 10 or 15 years. Nursing makes you connect with people. I have friends my daughter’s age. One of my best friends is from Russia—we wouldn’t have met another way. The diversity at CCP is amazing,” she said.
Jameelah was joined on this endeavor by her daughter, Sumiaya Adbur-Rasheed, who is graduating with a Theater degree. She took advantage of the College’s Dual Admissions partnership with Temple and will be pursuing her bachelor’s degree this fall.
“Participating in Dual Admissions made the whole process a lot easier, and I received a scholarship,” Sumiaya said.
Like her mother, Sumiaya was working toward a Nursing degree at another school, taking what she thought would be a more practical approach to career possibilities. After arriving at the College, she decided to pursue her lifelong interest.
“Theater has always been something I’ve been involved in. I love the faculty and the friends I’ve made in the Theater department,” she said.
She took multiple classes with Kirsten Quinn, an associate professor of English and a theater instructor. Students saw plays as part of their courses and had the opportunity to see Professor Quinn onstage.
“It was so inspiring to see an instructor perform. This isn’t just a dream. I can do this,” she said.
Sumiaya is now looking to branch out and work behind the camera.
“I’m starting my own production company, and I want to produce short films and plays. I’ve started writing, and I’m shifting my thinking to behind the scenes,” she said.
Through her coursework and as a member of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, she was also impacted by the diversity found at the College.
“There are individuals of diverse ages, sexualities and backgrounds. I made so many different types of connections. It opened my eyes to the world I live in,” she said.
Jameelah and Sumiaya even started their own podcast while at the College.
“My Inner MOMologue is a conversation between a daughter and her mother about culture, art, the state of the world, relationships and how their experiences connect to it all,” said Jameelah.
“Our relationship is growing. I’m learning about the mother/daughter relationship now that I’m an adult. The journey through CCP has helped with that,” said Sumiaya.