Anita Bhattacharjee took a rather selfless approach to higher education. She waited until her children had received the kind of education she valued so highly before returning to the classroom herself at age 52.
After graduating from the CUNY CareerPATH Community Health Worker Certificate Program in December of 2012, Anita was the first member of her cohort to enroll for a regular associate’s degree course load at Eugenio María de Hostos Community College.
“I was a single mother who always made sure my three children studied hard for school, and with that, my daughter graduated with honors at the age of 16. With more determination and hard work, my twin boys went on to attain college degrees. Nevertheless, my education was always at the back of my mind. I wanted them to graduate first, but having my college degree was something I always wanted,” Anita said.
The CUNY CareerPATH Community Health Worker Certificate Program trains residents of South Bronx and Northern Manhattan who meet the eligibility requirements to join the healthcare workforce. The training consists of 120 hours centered on community health worker core competencies, and contemporary health issues such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and chronic disease self-management. An additional 60 hours are devoted to helping participants develop their academic skills in reading, writing and math.
Following the classroom training, participants spend a minimum of 30 hours shadowing experienced community health workers as part of their practicum. Participants such as Anita earn academic credits toward the A.S. degree in Community Health at Hostos.
This significant collaboration between the Division of Continuing Education & Workforce Development and the Office of Academic Affairs is in keeping with the College’s operational plan to provide a pathway from certificate programs into college coursework and job placement.
Already having her own cleaning business, Green FootSteps, Anita was not necessarily looking to make a fresh start. What she really wanted was to better herself. She aspired to enter a field where she could help to bridge gaps between different populations and healthcare or social service systems by providing outreach, basic health education, referrals and follow-up service, case management, advocacy and home visiting services.
A Bronx resident who lives near Hostos, Anita originally hails from Singapore and came to the United States from Gabon, West Africa in 2000. While working at odd jobs as an undocumented alien, she launched her cleaning business immediately after becoming a U.S. citizen in 2010. Anita has also taught computer skills to seniors. Hoping to ear a four-year degree by 2014, she might work with seniors again.
“I knew if I didn’t do it now, I never would. After Hostos, I would like to continue my education and get a job where I can help people in a related healthcare field.”
Being an older student, Anita says she is a little anxious about beginning her freshman year this fall. Even so, she is grateful Fern Chan, the Coordinator for the CUNY Healthcare Interpreter Program and the Director of the CUNY CareerPATH at Hostos, and her professors at the College for their encouragement and support.
“I never doubted that Anita would achieve her dream of going to college. She has an unshakeable determination and resourcefulness that helped her to overcome many challenges to get to this point. She never allowed the barriers to stop her from attaining her higher education goals. I am elated for her,” Chan said.
Watch this video to learn more about Anita and the program:
For more information on the programs offered by the Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development, please visit http://www.hostos.cuny.edu/contedu/.