Medical Assisting Students Brought Blended Cultures to Class

Through their differences, four of the recent graduates in the Medical Assisting program at Forsyth Technical Community College had more in common than their classes. Three are first in their family to graduate from college, three are first generation American citizens and one migrated to the United States from Nigeria. All of them give kudos to their instructor, Anna Hilton, and to all the instructors for encouraging them and supporting them throughout their program.

Cindy Alfaro was born in the United States, but her parents are from El Salvador. “My parents wanted to move to the United States to provide my sister and me with a better life,” said Alfaro.

Alfaro said she began at Forsyth Tech right after high school and cannot wait to join the workforce. She is the first in her family to be in the health care field and the first to graduate from college which makes her family very proud. Her unique skills include speaking Spanish, French, and American Sign Language, which will be helpful going into the workforce. Alfaro is excited to graduate and would like to work in an Ophthalmologist’s office.

Olushanu Onasanya moved to the United States with her husband in 2004 from Nigeria. “It was a dream come true for me to embark on a life changing journey. To come to a country where irrespective of your age, you can achieve your dream. A country where, if you can dream it, you can achieve it” Onasanya said.

Olushanu had a career in Nigeria as an Urban and Regional Planner. She moved to the United States 15 years ago so that her husband can start and complete his residency and fellowship program in neurology at JFK Neuroscience Institute, Hospital for Special Surgery, and Cornell respectively. Olushanu and her husband started their family of three children in Philadelphia, and New Jersey and later moved to North Carolina. When her children were a little older, she realized she wanted to go back to school and become a medical assistant. Olushanu would like to work in an Oncology office and also help her husband in growing their Neurology practice situated in Greensboro.

Maria Paloumbas’ father’s family came to the U.S. from Greece when her father was four-years old. “My father and his family lived in a two-bedroom apartment when they moved to the US along with five family members and my grandfather made nets to catch fish back home in Greece. My father now owns a seafood restaurant in Walkertown,” Paloumbas said.

She is bilingual in Greek and English and worked part-time in the restaurant growing up. Following high school, she earned her certificate as an Esthetician, but wanted to earn her degree as a medical assistant to build on her credentials. With her experience in skin treatment, Paloumbas would like to work in a Dermatologist’s office.

Elizabeth Wren’s parents are from Puerto Rico, and she was born in the United States.  “My father was in the Air Force and we traveled a lot, so I was a ‘military brat.’”

She has two grown sons, the youngest joined in the Air Force and is stationed in Germany. He, and his family are traveling home to see her graduate. Her parents, who live in Mississippi will also be attending the graduation. Wren said her family is very supportive of her as she is also the first in her family to graduate from college. At first, she was nervous about going for her degree, but said the staff reassured her that she could do it. Wren has four grandchildren and enjoys spoiling them. She is bilingual in Spanish and English and hopes to use her translation skills working for an Orthopedist.

All four have leaned on each throughout this program and plan to keep in touch in the future.

Olushanu Onasanya, Cindy Alfaro, Maria Paloumbas, and Elizabeth Wren

Medical Assisting graduates from left Olushanu Onasanya, Cindy Alfaro, Maria Paloumbas, and Elizabeth Wren.