By Deborah Manning
Los Angeles Mission College Honor Student Victoria Lynn Palmer experienced a sense of belonging when she toured Tuskegee University in Alabama last June. The history of this university, established in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, resonated with her, as did the warm southern hospitality extended to her from faculty and staff. As she walked the campus grounds with its long-standing brick buildings and expansive green lawns, she realized she found the university where she hoped to transfer.
She attributed her newfound university to Mission’s Transfer Center Counselor and Coordinator Tashini Walker, who informed Ms. Palmer about university transfer options available in other parts of the country, and who guided her to an all-expense-paid tour of colleges and universities in the South.
“Every step of the way, Ms. Walker supported me,” Ms. Palmer said.
Early in May of 2016 at the Transfer Center, Ms. Palmer met with Ms. Walker and discussed her desire of transferring to a school that offered an environment where faculty and staff were especially supportive of students. With her student's preference in mind, Ms. Walker suggested that she consider transferring to one of the Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that are located in the South and on the East Coast.
“Historical Black Colleges and Universities have a reputation of being nurturing and supportive,” Ms. Walker said
Ms. Palmer said she was not even aware that HBCUs existed. She never thought of attending an out-of-state university let alone one that was 2,000 miles away from home. Prior to hearing about HBCUs, she had only considered applying to universities in Los Angeles.
“After Victoria disclosed information about her personal life regarding her adversities and heartaches, I knew then that the HBCU’s would provide a sense of home-away-from-home environment for her to flourish as she embarks upon her new journey,” Ms. Walker said.
Ms. Walker informed Ms. Palmer about an agreement between the California Community Colleges and the HBCUs.
“This agreement guarantees transfer to Historical Black Colleges and Universities when students complete certain courses,” Ms. Walker said.
Ms. Walker further explained to Ms. Palmer that HBCUs represent a diverse student body.
“They not only serve African Americans, but also students from other racial and ethnic groups,” Ms. Walker said.
Ms. Palmer, intrigued with this new opportunity, expressed her interest to Ms. Walker about the possibility of attending a HBCU.
Ms. Walker knew of colleges within the Los Angeles Community College District that arranged tours for students to visit HBCUs. She also knew that obtaining a reservation late in the spring semester was an obstacle. She immediately contacted one of her colleagues who had a tour coming up to see if Ms. Palmer could participate.
Ms. Walker’s colleague had one seat available on a bus scheduled to tour southern HBCUs.
Ms. Palmer excitedly joined the tour. She was on her way to a life-changing adventure. The trip, which was her first visit to the South, allowed her to experience new people, places, culture, and ultimately discover a university she hoped to attend in the fall of 2017.
“The trip got me out of my comfort zone,” Ms. Palmer said.
At the request of her English professor, Veronica Diaz-Cooper, Ms. Palmer enlightened students in their English 101/102 accelerated class about her visit to the Transfer Center and how it morphed into a tour of HBCUs. Her impromptu presentation evoked much discussion and questions from the students.
“Ms. Palmer learned there are a plethora of all-expenses-paid college tours available to all LACCD students,” Professor Diaz-Cooper said. “She selected the Historical Black Colleges and Universities tour, although she had no idea what to expect from the HBCU tour--this experience led her to her future.”
Professor Diaz-Cooper, pictured above, also used her student’s positive experience to recognize one of the college’s valuable resources. She wanted students to hear firsthand about Ms. Palmer’s visit to the Transfer Center and how the counseling session with Ms. Walker developed into a trip of a lifetime.
“The Transfer Center is one of LAMC’s most valuable on campus resources for students, all they have to do is walk through the door,” Professor Diaz-Cooper said. “Ms. Victoria Palmer exemplifies what occurs, simply by going to the Transfer Center.”
Ms. Palmer, and the other students who were slated for the tour, flew to New Orleans where their bus awaited them. During the seven-day tour, they traveled through several states and visited eight HBCUs.
As the busload of students traveled through New Orleans, Ms. Palmer said she noticed a building with a dark stain on it that had a haunting look about it. She learned that the empty building used to be a hospital and the stain that ran from the bottom of the building almost to the top of it resulted from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. People died inside the hospital when it filled with water from the hurricane. Ms. Palmer, who is a nursing major, also learned that since the hospital had not been rebuilt, people in the area traveled a longer distance for medical care. As the bus pressed on, Ms. Palmer realized that she could help the people in this area when she achieved her goal of becoming a nurse practitioner and that she could greatly serve the area by opening a health clinic.
Ms. Palmer’s career choice of nurse practitioner resulted from an important conversation she had with her critically ill mother about her college major and her life’s purpose.
“I majored in Administration of Justice,” Ms. Palmer said, “But I did not feel strongly enough about it to pursue a career with it.”
Ms. Palmer’s mother helped her daughter see that the answer to her life’s purpose was what she had already accomplished, which was her dedication to the care she lovingly provided her mother and her grandfather.
Ms. Palmer cared for her grandfather while caring for her mother, each of them faced terminal illness. She was at her mother’s side when she passed away in the hospital on November 9, 2014 at age 48 of multiple myeloma. Her grandfather died in May 2015.
Last summer, Ms. Palmer applied for an internship at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in West Los Angeles with a desire to volunteer in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). After a successful interview with the director of the program at Cedars-Sinai, she volunteered 70 hours within a period of two months in the ICU. Additionally, she worked a job and completed nine summer school units, including a biology course at East Los Angeles College.
In the ICU at Cedars-Sinai, Ms. Palmer thrived working under the guidance of medical staff and interacting with patients. The internship proved significant for Ms. Palmer as it further sparked her passion of becoming a nurse. The experience also enhanced her resume, which makes her more competitive if she applies for other internships, and when she eventually applies for her first nursing position.
Last semester, Ms. Palmer earned the President’s Honor Award that is presented to her by College President Dr. Monte Perez at this spring’s Honor Ceremony.
In early December 2016, Ms. Palmer anxiously telephoned Admissions at Tuskegee University and asked if she was accepted as a transfer student for fall of 2017. The Admissions official checked the records and informed Ms. Palmer that the university accepted her and an acceptance letter was on its way to her.
Ms. Palmer was elated about her acceptance; but after she hung up the phone, she said she felt somehow that a mistake had been made. Her uncertainty ended once the post office delivered the eagerly awaited envelope with Victoria Lynn Palmer printed on it. She opened the envelope and noticed the striking gold Tuskegee University logo at the top of the letterhead. She read the words, Congratulations, you have been accepted.
In Ms. Walker’s office, Ms. Palmer spoke with excitement about the possibility of a road trip to Tuskegee University. The distance from Mission is 2,143 miles.
“My friends advised me to ship my car to Alabama,” Ms. Palmer said.
She contemplates a new adventure of driving her car across the southern United States early next August, and well before fall classes begin.