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Nancy Tushabe isn’t one to speak up in class.
But she has much to say.
Tushabe studies nursing at the SUNY Plattsburgh branch campus in Queensbury. Originally from Kenya, she made her way from Uganda to the Adirondack region with her four children in 2012.
While in Uganda, Tushabe worked at a health center as a community health nurse, providing treatment to those with HIV and AIDS.
She transferred to the SUNY Plattsburgh branch campus to complete her bachelor’s in nursing after earning an associate’s degree from nearby SUNY Adirondack.
The combined nursing program between the two colleges, established in 2015, was a good option for her since public schools, the two campuses and housing options are all located relatively close together, Tushabe said.
“The branch campus for me was a plus because I didn't have to transfer my children to new schools (after transferring), I didn't have to change my address and I still had the support of all the people I was familiar with,” Tushabe said.
“It also is small, making it very easy for the professors to have enough time for each student. Everyone seems to help each other and work together so easily.”
But it wasn’t easy to leave everything behind to pursue a nursing education overseas, especially with her children in tow, Tushabe said.
“It was a big decision, but I don’t regret it,” she said. “Everybody has just helped take care of us.”
“I feel like education is what takes you to where you want to be.” — Nancy Tushabe
Her affinity for helping others dates back to her childhood when she cared for her grandmother, she said.
“I just have that compassion in me and I like to work with people,” she said. “Nursing became one of those things that I thought if I worked with patients I would feel more fulfilled and like I was helping people.”
Tushabe’s unique perspective on health care has benefited her fellow students, said Jenna Thate, assistant professor of nursing.
Students tend to view nursing through the lens in which they’ve experienced health care, and conversations with Tushabe help broaden their view, Thate said, adding that Tushabe is a dedicated student.
“To come on her own with her kids, it’s a huge sacrifice and commitment,” she said. “She’s had an impact on people.”
And despite all Tushabe has accomplished, she’s humble, Thate said.
Gail Powers, an adjunct faculty member in the nursing department, also admires Tushabe.
“She’s a remarkable woman,” Powers said.
Tushabe learned about the combined nursing program from Saratoga Springs resident Paul Phillips, whom she met in 2002. Phillips has volunteered in Uganda for years, making more than 13 trips there, mainly teaching elementary and high school-aged children who have been orphaned by HIV and AIDS.
As he got to know her better with each trip he made to Uganda, he learned of her desire to get a high-quality nursing education in the U.S., Phillips said, and he offered to sponsor her, helping her make the necessary arrangements to begin her education.
“She’s been enrolled in a very competitive program,” but has excelled, Phillips said. “She has done a great job academically and as a parent.”
Tushabe plans to graduate in spring 2017. When she does return to Uganda, she hopes to help establish a nursing school and teach there.
“The students wouldn’t be difficult to find but all the other things would be challenge,” Tushabe said.
As she pursues that goal, she will resume work at the health center she worked at before coming to America, also providing outreach to surrounding villages.
Tushabe knows she’ll be able to help more people because of her education at SUNY Plattsburgh.
“I feel like education is what takes you to where you want to be,” she said, adding that because of her schooling, she will be able to bring hope to children she will serve and “look to the future as something bright.”
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