Immigrant Students Find Success in Nursing Assistant Program

Posted: March 27, 2014

Fourteen students from nine countries celebrated their graduation March 24 from the Nursing Assistant with VESL (Vocational English as a Second Language) program at Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC).

The graduates hail from Burma, China, Cuba, Ethiopia, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Thailand and Ukraine. There is a growing need for bilingual personnel within the healthcare industry, and high projected growth for nursing assistants, according to the Oregon Labor Market Information System (OLMIS).

Debbie Derr, MHCC president, addressed the graduates and guests, and was joined by speakers Lori Stegmann, president of the Gresham City Council, and Mai Vu, resident care manager at Glisan Care Center. Steven Storla, MHCC Career Pathways coordinator, served as emcee and congratulated the graduates on their achievements. Lisa Rye, Nursing Assistant program director, and Angelique Kauffman Rodriguez, Career Pathways specialist, gave each student a pin signifying their success.

One Graduate’s Experience
Nunu Zahkung, a refugee from Burma, spoke about her experience in Malaysia, where she worked as a private duty nurse taking care of elderly patients. After arriving in America, she discovered that she was pregnant and received pre-natal care from a public health clinic in Multnomah County and delivered her baby at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU).

“All the staff was very kind and helpful,” recalls Zahkung. “I met lots of nurses and CNAs (certified nurse assistants) during that time, and I started to miss what I was used to do back home.”

She chose to pursue her education at MHCC and says, “There were 14 different people in my class with 14 different backgrounds and experiences. It has been so rewarding to work together as a group and to support each other in finishing the course.”

Next, she plans to take the CNA test, find a job to gain more experience in her chosen field and eventually go back to school to become a nurse. “I’ve learned that if you dream big and work hard, there will always be people there to support you,” says Zahkung.

Immigrant Students Find Success in Nursing Assistant Program

                 Nu Nu Zakhung
Graduation Photos
Photos of the graduation are available on Facebook.

Interested on this Program?
For more information on the nursing assistant with VESL program, go to or contact Angelique Kauffman Rodriguez, 503-660-1444, For more information on the mainstream nursing assistant program, please visit to or call Workforce Training at 503-491-7235.

For more information, media professionals may contact the Office of Community Engagement, 503-491-7204 or

© 2014 Mt. Hood Community College | 26000 SE Stark St. | Gresham, OR 97030 | 503-491-6422
 Last Modified: 3/27/2014 04:47:00 PM