Queensborough beats strong within Dinajah

Published: September 19, 2019

A first-generation American's early introduction to college bolstered her love of learning

Dinajah Campbell started her studies at Queensborough Community College when she was 16. She enrolled in a CPR course and attained certification. Five years later, as a graduate and employee of the City University of New York (CUNY), Queensborough still pulses through her veins.

“I loved studying here and I loved the idea of nursing,” says Campbell, a participant in P2N (Pathways to Nursing), a 2015 CUNY program that provided personalized advisement, mentoring, tutoring and financial support services that advanced her interest in professional healthcare.

“It was very competitive and exposed me to a lot of new things,” recalls Dinajah, who as an undergraduate practically lived at the college’s computer labs and library. Today, her enthusiasm for nursing extends to midwifery, postpartum care and hospital administration.

Campbell, from Jamaica, Queens -- her family comes from Jamaica, the Caribbean island -- begins her final year at CUNY’s York College this fall. She transferred from Queensborough with her Associate’s Degree and will graduate from York with a Bachelor’s in Health Science in May 2020.

“Queensborough made that possible, but I’m not done yet,” says the first-in-her-family college graduate, endowed with a mindset for lifelong learning.

A sibling to an 18-year-old brother, and sisters, 16 and 13, Campbell attended Campus Magnet High School in Cambria Heights, where she was introduced to Queensborough counselor Melissa Hubbard and the 21st Century Community Learning program, which featured literacy and math enrichment services.

“I struggled with math but Ms. Hubbard recognized that I was motivated,” Campbell explains.

A school trip to Queensborough exposed her to the college’s virtual hospital facilities and nursing curriculum.

“Something just clicked with me that day,” she recalls, thankful to Hubbard and other Queensborough staff advisers including Gail Patterson, Sherri-Ann Simmons, and Dorine Touwsma.

Gail Patterson and Dinajah Campbell at the College’s medical learning labs.

[Picture: Gail Patterson and Dinajah Campbell at the College’s medical learning labs.]

Now, employed part-time as a CUNY Explorer guide, Campbell participates in the New York City College Access for All initiative by hosting 7th graders’ visits to Queensborough’s campus. She has also worked with local high school students as a peer mentor and instructor.

“Some advisers here at Queensborough think I’d make a good teacher,” says the former childhood clarinet player and contemporary dancer with Black Spectrum Theatre.

“Art, the stage, public speaking… they enable young people to become comfortable, confident, articulate and strong. Every child should have exposure to that type of creativity and freedom. It really helped me.”

Campbell will juggle full-time college, an internship at Jamaica hospital, continue to work at Queensborough and start a weekend catering job this fall: “I will have no social life.”

She relishes her independence, however, and welcomes the responsibility and risks that come with taking on so much.

“It will be worth it. I have a lot of pride and self-determination,” she declares, her heart racing.

Drawing a deep breath she adds, “If I want it all, I have to study hard, save money and stay the course. I want to go places.”

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Contact:  Alice Doyle and Michael Donahue

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