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Nursing degree allows graduate to build new life for her family

June 17, 2016
KOKOMO, Ind. — Fatoumata Jalloh left western Africa at age 22, seeking better opportunities.

A nursing degree from Indiana University Kokomo helps her achieve her dreams.

“For my family and for me, education is the only option to prosper in this country,” said Jalloh, a native of Guinea who now lives in Indianapolis. “This country has opportunities for people with education, to have a good life.”

Her goal is to work as a psychiatric nurse, and return in a few years to become a nurse practitioner, an aspiration inspired by IU Kokomo faculty.

“I’m aiming higher now than when I started,” she said. “Before I started, I just wanted to be a nurse. I didn’t know about the other areas nurses can do. My professors helped me explore beyond bedside nursing.”

Jalloh, 29, began college in her native country, but political unrest cause the school year to be canceled. She moved to New York, where she enrolled in language courses to learn English, and met and married her husband, Momodu Jalloh, who is from Sierra Leone.

After seven months at the New York Language Institute, she began taking classes at the Bronx Community College, working on building her English reading and writing skills, preparing for a bachelor’s degree program.

After the births of two children, the Jallohs moved to Indiana, seeking a more affordable lifestyle, and Fatoumata began taking nursing prerequisites at Ivy Tech Community College.

When she was ready to begin nursing school, IU Kokomo was her only choice.

“I came here to visit, I spoke with the faculty, and they were very welcoming and encouraging,” she said. “They are great, they want you to succeed. You can call them, text them, or meet with them if you need help.”

Nursing school was a challenging experience, she said, especially because she was expecting her third child when she enrolled. She gave birth during spring break, and, with her husband’s assistance, was able to return to school quickly. He took six weeks off work to be their new daughter’s primary caregiver.

“Nursing school is quite challenging,” she said. “If you miss too much in clinicals, no matter how well you score on the exams, you will have to repeat the semester. I knew how hard my being in school was on everybody at home. I didn’t want to fail any classes.”

Momodu made it possible for her to focus on school, Fatoumata said.

“For the last three years, he was the main person for the kids,” she said. “He’s the one who took care of them most of the time. I couldn’t have done this without him.”

She is proud to set a good example for her children, who include a daughter, 8; a son, 6, and her second daughter, who is now 2. She is expecting her fourth child in the next month.

“Now that I have a college degree, I am showing them it is good to go to college,” she said. “The times we live in now, a high school diploma can’t get you even a job in fast food anymore. With my degree, we can do more than we could before.”

She worked as a patient care technician in the medical psychiatric unit at St. Vincent Hospital, Indianapolis, while in school, and starts a new job as a registered nurse in that unit in September.

“The main thing I like about nursing is that you are helping people, and psychiatric patients need help more than anyone else,” she said. “That population is very vulnerable. People tend to forget about their needs when it comes to health care. When you go to the hospital, everyone cares about the physical symptoms, but mental health has a stigma.”

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 06/17/2016