Profile in Determination: Diaraye Bah, College Prep Student

No one is more determined to succeed than Diaraye Bah.

Born in Guinea, Diaraye majored in biology at the Universite Gamal Abdel Nasser de Conakry (UGANC) before emigrating to the United States in 2012. She currently works as a Patient Care Associate at Metropolitan Hospital, taking vital signs, executing EKGs and collecting specimens from patients. Drawing blood is what she likes most. “That’s my favorite thing to do,” Diaraye chuckles. “People think I was a vampire in another life. But I’m good at it. I’m very gentle.” But even Diaraye was daunted when the coronavirus struck. “Work became very demanding and very dangerous. The stress is high and as part of the floating staff pool, I work in different areas of the hospital. But it is worth the effort.”

Diaraye also believes higher education is worth the effort. Determined to become a nurse, the DC37 member saw a notice about SLU’s College Prep Program on the union’s website. Then she met Becky Firesheets at a CUNY Day info session. Becky helped her complete her application for nursing school, and encouraged her to attend College Prep to improve her proficiency in reading, writing, and elementary algebra. Diaraye’s kids, her cousin Fatima, and her colleagues all urged her to do so as well. And so Diaraye enrolled — in both courses.

“I tried to discourage her,” admits Abraham Marcus. “In the eight years I’ve been with the program, only a handful of people have been able to accomplish that. Taking both classes meant she had to be in class Monday through Thursday, and then find time to do the required outside work. She works full time. She’s got three kids.” He added, “And then there was COVID-19.”

But even in the midst of a pandemic, Diaraye remained undeterred. She didn’t miss a class. She went to every tutoring session. When classes went online, she continued to attend, even when she got sick. “Abraham and Wayne were so supportive, “Diaraye said. “My classmates encouraged me. Becky also helped me on the administrative side. I really appreciate everything they did to help me complete my coursework.”

Abraham returned the compliment. “Diaraye was simply extraordinary. She passed reading, writing and elementary algebra in one semester while working full-time in a hospital during a pandemic, taking care of three kids, facing a divorce, and fasting for Ramadan for a month during final exams. If she can accomplish that, she can accomplish anything.”

And that is exactly what Diaraye is determined to do. She has applied to both Hostos and Bronx Community Colleges, and expects to be admitted for the fall semester as soon as her college transcript is received from UGANC.

“Thanks to all the support I got at SLU, I have my confidence back,” Diaraye says. “I will be a nurse. I know that I can do it.”