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Maria College Nursing Student Selected for 2018 Vanguard Award

ALBANY, NY, February 16, 2018  Joseph Aklassou-gana, a Maria College associate degree in nursing (ADN) student will be one of eight awardees honored at the Vanguard Award Ceremony in April. He was selected from a statewide pool of over 50 strong nominations of post-secondary level students enrolled in career and technical education (CTE) and non-traditional fields for their gender.   The Vanguard Award is administered by the New York State Nontraditional Employment & Training (NET) Project, Center for Women in Government & Civil Society, and is sponsored by the New York State Education Department.

Joseph’s story began in Ivory Coast, West Africa. He stated, “I grew up in a country where people became gravely ill from lack of basic health care needs. It was heartbreaking to see people lose their lives over preventable or easily treatable causes.”

His father immigrated to the United States and sent for Joseph in 2006. He became an American citizen and started working as a certified medical assistant, thus opening the door to the healthcare field. It has not been an easy journey, but he has persevered. He stated, “I grew up speaking French and adapting to the English language was challenging, especially with the nursing prerequisite courses. I reached out to my instructors for help and I read many books.”

Victoria A. Callagan EdD(c) RN, Maria College ADN program director, stated, “Joseph has demonstrated an eagerness to learn and lives our mission by his dedication and compassion to help others. In addition to the rigorous academic responsibilities, he is also a peer tutor and mentors other students in nursing and mathematics. His positive and determined attitude with a passion for succeeding in healthcare is very inspiring. He believes strongly that he can make a difference as a male role model in nursing.”

Joseph has his sights set on graduating from Maria’s associate degree in nursing program in May and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Becoming a RN has been his long-term goal and he would like to continue his education and someday become a nurse practitioner. He stated, “I hope to one day help to advance the health care systems in undeveloped countries in order to reduce the number of preventable disease and deaths around the world.”

Maria College president, Dr. Thomas Gamble, stated, “We send our warm congratulations to Joseph. He exemplifies why Maria College and the Sisters of Mercy are committed to providing opportunity education to all who can benefit from it.”


About Maria College

Founded in 1958, Maria College is one of 17 colleges and universities in the United States sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. The private, co-educational, Catholic college in Albany serves approximately 800 students in a variety of degree and certificate programs including liberal arts, healthcare management, nursing, occupational therapy assistant, and health and occupational sciences. With an unwavering commitment to the humanities, the College instills in its graduates a respect for the dignity of each person and the ability to transform learned skills into caring service.
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