The first class to receive a Loma Linda University education in the city limits of San Bernardino was presented with certificates during a graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 7. Twelve students received medical assistant certificates, and 22 received certification as community health workers from San Manuel Gateway College.
The event took place on the college campus at Loma Linda University Health – San Bernardino.
Commencement speaker Richard Hart, MD, DrPH, president of Loma Linda University Health, noted that San Manuel Gateway College was built without a blueprint, from scratch, in a world that had never used this educational model before.
San Manuel Gateway College was established to give young people in San Bernardino and the Inland Empire a future beyond high school that also empowers them to serve their under-served community.
Hart charged the students: “Now you are health professionals, and let me tell you: we need help — big time. We need help.
Joining in a long line of officials eager to shake each graduating medical assistant or community health worker’s hand were Tribal Secretary Ken Ramirez, Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena and Treasurer Sabrina Le Roy from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. Without the Tribe, the college may not have come to fruition. They gave $10 million to Loma Linda University Health to help bring San Manuel Gateway College into existence. Additional indispensable partners and dreamers in the project are San Bernardino City Unified School District and the city of San Bernardino.
But the evening’s most celebrated stars were the future community health workers and medical assistants.
Neery Velazquez, one of the medical assistant graduates, said that the “Gateway” part of the college’s name aptly describes the way it helps them: opening a passage to opportunities they couldn’t have encountered any other way.
Classes for the medical assistant program began in September 2016, just two months after the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the campus, which is also home to affordable healthcare provider SAC Health System.
Additionally, in February of this year, the Community Health Worker/Promotores Academy — a partnership between Loma Linda University and El Sol Neighborhood Education Center — moved its home to San Manuel Gateway College, leading to the combined graduation ceremony.
Arwyn Wild, executive director of San Manuel Gateway College is optimistic of the future ahead of his graduates.
“What uplifts me is the fortitude and tenacity of these students,” he said. “To see and hear them talk about their dreams is so encouraging.”
The plans are fast growing for the college’s expansion. Starting this fall are at least two new medical certification programs: nursing assistant and pharmacy technician, as well as the second cohort of medical assistant students. A surgical tech program will begin in January 2018.
Additionally, the college’s Community Health Worker/Promotores Academy will continue to expand.