female UEI college graduate

Graduate Finds Hope in Administering COVID Vaccines

When Tameka Green reflects on her life, she becomes brutally honest when assessing what she feels to be one of her greatest weaknesses – the thing that’s held her back for more than two decades in the workforce.

“I’m the type, when I start something, I don’t finish,” she said. “I would start up a business but didn’t finish it. I went to cosmetology school – started, but didn’t finish. As I progressed, I thought this was a pattern. This was me. I didn’t want that to be me.”

So, as her nine children grew and entered adulthood, and the world started turning upside-down from the COVID-19 pandemic, Tameka decided it was time to end this cycle. It was time to pursue a career path she’d wanted since she a child suffering from asthma in the hospital.

In the spring of 2020, Tameka enrolled in the Medical Assistant Program at UEI College in Huntington Park. She said she entered the program with her mind set on one thing.

“I said, ‘I’m going to finish this,’” she said. “I told myself every day, ‘I’m going to finish! I’m going to finish! I’m going to finish!’ I wanted to break that cycle of starting something but not finishing. And, I really did. I broke that cycle.”

Tameka graduated in February and, just a week later, accepted a full-time position at a local medical center where, among other things, she administers COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. She’d eventually like to receive more training to become a licensed vocational nurse (LVN).

“Attending UEI made me a better person,” Tameka said. “It made me think I could do anything I want to do. If I keep my eye on the prize and keep going, I can keep doing it.”

Paying it Forward at UEI

As a little girl, around the ages of 10 and 11, Tameka suffered badly from severe asthma, with led to her having to spend many a night in the hospital. Here, she got her first real exposure to nursing and the medical field.

“They were always coming in and taking care of me and doing all these things to keep me comfortable,” she said. “That made me realize this is what I wanted. I wanted to take care of people like they’re doing for me. I wanted to do the same thing for someone else one day.”

By working in in-home support services and elderly care, Tameka dipped her toe in the health care field as an adult. But, she was ready for better training and more responsibility within the field. With her kids grown, she saw her opportunity.

“I said, you need to get something going for yourself,” said Tameka, who’s currently 48. “I had to really think about it, but I knew I really do need to do this for myself. If not, it’s just going to pass me by.”

When Tameka enrolled in UEI College, classes had just transitioned to remote learning due to pandemic-related restrictions. While she found this challenging, instructors provided a wealth of online support to keep her learning on track until campus eventually reopened for in-person learning. And, she said her instructor, Kristy Huerta, made learning not only possible, but a pleasure.

“When I tell you this lady’s got skills, she’s got skills,” Tameka said. “She understands. She was very open-minded to suggestions and questions, and her answers were always incredible. She was wonderful. Her training was – oh my God – amazing.”

“Tameka showed dedication from the beginning- we bonded from the start during on virtual orientation. She never gave up and she DID finish. I was so proud of her; she had so many obstacles but overcame all of them,” Kristy said. “All she needed was someone to believe in her and I absolutely did. She was a model student and always brought a smile to my face. She will do great at whatever she puts her mind to now that she knows she can accomplish her goals.”

Finding a Purpose, Getting Back to Life

When classroom work was done and it was time to start her externship, Tameka found herself in a dilemma: an externship that was just a few hours a week at a clinic that didn’t match her long-term aspirations, or quit her job (and interrupt her short-term financial security) so she’d have time to focus on an externship that better aligned with her goals.

“That was a big decision,” she said. “But, I knew I’d have to make some sacrifices here in order for me to finish, so I had to stop working.”

The sacrifice paid off. Tameka externed at a dermatologist’s office, then earned her current full-time position just a week after completing the program.

Tameka said she absolutely loves the work she’s doing at her new full-time position.

“I got into the medical field because I wanted to do what I enjoy, and right now I’m really doing what I love,” she said. “Just helping people, being of service to others, and being a blessing to other people’s lives … at this time and age right now, I just really like helping people get vaccines.”

The best part of administering the COVID-19 vaccine, Tameka said, is the sense of hope it appears to be giving people after several long months of sacrifices and unknowns.

“Every day, I meet different people and I hear the same story about how everybody’s excited to get vaccines so we can get back to our lives,” she said. “This is so true. I like to see them coming in smiling and ready to get back to their lives. That’s what I’m there for.”

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