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Montgomery College Student Success Stories

Nursing a Career
Insights, Fall '02

Ora Bailey ’68Alumna Ora Bailey ’68 has the indomitable spirit of someone who has overcome many hurdles in her lifetime, not least of which is the cancer that is currently in remission. Her career in nursing, for example, had to be postponed for more than two decades while she followed her husband, a career army officer, from post to post. It was only when the family moved to Montgomery County that she again took up her ambition to become a nurse. After working as a guard at the county’s new detention center at Seven Locks Road and then as a clerk at the National Institutes of Health, she was recruited in 1965 to join Montgomery College’s inaugural two-year nurse training program that was being offered at the Takoma Park campus. “I was the only black girl in the class,” the 80-year old Bailey notes. She jokingly complained that her absences were more noticed being the sole minority in a class of 50 students. This is in contrast to today’s Montgomery College student population which has representatives from 167 different nations. Nonetheless, she recalls fondly her experiences of attending the College, noting that the teachers were “firm but helpful” and the atmosphere throughout the campus was one of “family, one big happy family.”

Now that the College is embarking on an expansion of the Takoma Park campus, Bailey is thrilled that her old alma mater will be revitalized and that a program she helped inaugurate will be enhanced by both bricks and mortar and a new commitment to serving the community’s health care needs. The five-year, $88 million capital improvement program will enhance the College’s health sciences program, which are centered at the Takoma Park Campus, with the creation of a state-of-the-art health facility. The Health Sciences Center will not only have the latest modern equipment and labs for students, but will also house a community-based health care clinic, under a partnership agreement between the College and Holy Cross Hospital. Bailey, who lives only blocks from where the new facilities are going up, looks forward to the new buildings and services, but she is especially excited about the proposed Cultural Arts Center that is also a part of the expansion program. “I want to take classes to see if I can draw a straight line,” she quips.

Maryland will need to hire more than 10,000 public school teachers every year for the next 10 years to keep pace with the growing population of school-age children in the state. However, only about 2,500 qualified teachers graduate with a degree in education in Maryland each year. In response, Montgomery College has joined with the county’s public schools and several of the state’s four year institutions to increase the number of qualified teachers produced by these institutions. The result is a collaborative partnership that aims to identify potential teacher candidates and nurture them through an educational system that utilizes the advantages of Montgomery College and accelerates students’ involvement in their professional development.

“It is a fact that students who are identified early and are given an opportunity to work in the field earlier tend to stick with the program and go into the profession,” says Dr. Ginny Buckner, who chairs Rockville’s Education Department. A case in point is 19-year-old Michael Frazier, who is a member of the inaugural class of students enrolled in the “Growing Teachers Program,” as the collaborative partnership is known. Last winter, Frazier faced the prospect of graduating without any clear idea about a future career. He had vague plans to maybe go into politics or study law. Teaching was the furthest thing from his mind, despite the fact that his mom is a teacher at Magruder High School.

Through an outreach effort conducted by the Growing Teachers Program, Frazier was identified as a potential teacher, and he spent a portion of his final year taking a fundamentals course in education at the College. Now, he is enrolled as a full-time student in the program with plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in education and teach at the elementary school level. “All my friends are sitting around not thinking about their future,” he said during a recent interview. “[The program] is giving me motivation and guiding me toward a future where I can expect to be working and not sitting on a couch after graduation.”
While at Montgomery College, participants in the program earn an associate of arts degree in teaching with an emphasis in special education or elementary level education. In addition, students also participate in field work in public school classrooms throughout their two years. The program’s courses transfer to any state four-year institution a student might want to attend. However, for students who want to stay local, the College has special articulation agreements with two institutions at the University System of Maryland’s Shady Grove Campus—Towson University and University of Maryland, Baltimore County.