Medical Careers Pathway for New Americans, Other Students

At the International Institute of Minnesota (IIM), a successful, supportive pathway for New Americans and other students to succeed in medical careers has been 20-plus years in the making. 

The program's proven track record of student success is thanks to comprehensive, responsive training and coursework, including ESL-integrated instruction, social services support, and bridge coursework, to ensure students are ready for college and are receiving assistance in removing barriers to academic success.


The Central Corridor Anchor Partnership is working with IIM, along with Hennepin County, HIRED, and Project for Pride in Living, on the MSPWin Health Careers Initiative to align regional health care workforce training and employers to accelerate closing racial and economic disparities in the Twin Cities.


Nursing Assistant Training

IIM's sustainable wage and career ladder begins with medical and nursing assistant training through which students are placed in nursing assistant positions with one of 79 employer partners.

Since 1990, IIM has helped to place 2,161 individuals in employment as Nursing Assistants. Of the 2,928 students that have enrolled in the Nursing Assistant Training component of the Medical Career Pathway, 2,686 have graduated and 2,561 have attained certification.



College Readiness Academy

Students who need additional preparation before being college-ready have the option of participating in the College Readiness for Medical Careers, aimed at adults working or interested in a health care career. There are prep classes at Saint Paul College to assist in student preparation for academic success.

“We offer an 8-week summer college readiness course, and a longer 14-week course during the academic year that teach students how to succeed in an academic setting and get ongoing support throughout,” said Jane Graupman, Executive Director of IIM.

"This program has proven successful in achieving student retention in academic programs and supporting students that graduate. It is a pathway to medical careers upgrades, allowing students to work and gain income and experience while participating," explained Graupman.



College Support and Medical Career Advancement

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For students seeking to go beyond their current health care career level, IIM provides individualized academic advising and support for students in college and during the early stages of employment. The Medical Careers Pathway program also offers comprehensive financial coaching to help students achieve financial success.

"We are always looking for more students for our programs," said Graupman. "Our message to students who are ready to go to school and need support in the process of laddering up in their health care experience and career path is that we are here to help."

Graupman invites Partnership partners to help spread the word in the community about IIM's Medical Careers Pathways program, enrolling now for the 8-week summer college readiness course and enrolling later in the summer for the fall College Readiness Academy.

College Readiness Academy classes for summer 2018 have already started, but there is still room for some students. Please contact Merle Greene at if you would like to refer a student to a summer program.

Images and data courtesy of IIM.

Finding the Employer Connection Through C3 Fellows



Marcia Gonzalez was born in Ecuador and came to the United States in March 2009 at the age of 16. Gonzalez attended several high schools and felt as though the education system was quite different from where she came from.

“It was really hard to adjust to this country in terms of culture and language,” Gonzalez noted. “Spanish is my first language and English is difficult. I was able to understand it but it was difficult to speak.”


Setting Goals for Direction and Motivation

Gonzalez debated between going back to Ecuador to finish high school or continuingher education here in Minnesota. After deciding to complete high school in the U.S., Gonzalez attended a charter school and began to set goals for herself with a sense of direction and motivation. Her first goal was to learn English and finish high school. Within six months, Gonzalez was able to speak English and ended up graduating high school with a 3.8 GPA. 


Pursuing the C3 Fellows Program

Gonzalez then enrolled at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Gonzalez through the Power of You Program (POY). She set her sights on becoming a nurse and working in a hospital. When meeting with her POY advisor, she learned of this new program called C3 Fellows. 

Gonzalez started nursing school in 2014 and was able to work in a hospital as a CNA. She reached out to Brian Mogren, the C3 Fellows Program Director at the time.

“The program was so helpful when it came to applying for jobs, improving my resume, and doing mock interviews to learn how to respond in a professional way,” Gonzalez reflected.

“The entire experience of being a C3 Fellow has been so significant for me. Prior to the program, I had applied to so many hospitals and never received a phone call back. I never got an interview. So I thought maybe I was doing something wrong because English is my second language. I thought I needed help but didn’t know where to get it from until I heard of C3 Fellows.”


The Value of Fellowship

The C3 Fellows program allowed Gonzalez to obtain a job at the University of Minnesota Medical Center (UMMC) as a Nurse Technician. By working at UMMC, Gonzalez established a working relationship with key figures including nurses, managers, and supervisors. After earning her ADN degree, Gonzalez was able to reach out to those managers and get hired as a new graduate. In the future, Gonzalez would like to go back to school to obtain her DNP degree.

“C3 Fellows helped me initiate my career in the medical field,” Gonzalez stated.

“In today's world, finding a job right after graduation is difficult especially in the acute care setting. I’m very thankful for the program. In my case it opened doors for my career. I never struggled to find a job as a new graduate thanks to this program that helped me get a job while I was still working toward my degree. I will forever be thankful to the C3 Fellows program for all of the help I received.”



Giving back: Community-minded nurse brings special commitment to care

  Sadio Aar

Sadio Aar

For Fairview nurse Sadio Aar, the financial support of the Nursing Diversity Initiative is not only enabling her to obtain her BSN, but also leading her to care for community health with new insight.

Sadio Aar immigrated from Somalia to the United States as an eight-year-old refugee. As a young child, Aar grew up in an underserved community and the importance of giving back was taught early on.

“I remember going to the community center after school to help younger kids with their homework, helping the elders with reading their mail, interpreting for people over the phone whose phone or electricity was cut off, and many more things,” Aar reflected.

closing the financial gap

Aar became an RN in January 2017 after graduating with her associate's degree from St. Catherine University in December 2016. She took a semester off between her RN and BSN degrees to find a nursing job as a new graduate and save money to pay for tuition out-of-pocket. Aar maxed out on her financial aid assistance in her previous degrees and was unable to qualify for additional aid. For the past 11 months, Aar has worked at Fairview Southdale Hospital.

Minnesota is currently battling two major workforce challenges: Minnesota employers lack qualified applicants for jobs in high demand, and Minnesota has one of the widest opportunity gaps in the nation for people of color, with a significant portion of the population facing unemployment and underemployment. To tackle these challenges, the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership has developed a career laddering approach to streamline health care workforce pathways.

The Nursing Diversity Initiative is part of this approach, and supports diverse two-year degree RN nurses from the Central Corridor to earn BSN degrees by providing financial aid and onboarding training. Fewer persons of color obtain four-year BSN degrees than two-year degrees, yet there is a strong national push from the Institute of Medicine for hospitals to have at least 80% of their nursing staff to hold BSN degrees by 2020. More than half of the projected health care job openings in the Central Corridor over the next five years are nursing jobs. 

Thanks to funding from the Otto Bremer Trust, the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership is helping support diverse 2-year RN nurses pursue RN to BSN programs at partner universities.

investing more and giving back

After hearing about the Nursing Diversity Initiative through an email her supervisor sent out to the team, Aar returned to St. Catherine to pursue her BSN. As a student with previous degrees, Aar is currently paying off student loans while attempting to pay out-of-pocket for the BSN program. Aar works 72 hours biweekly and regularly picks up extra shifts to pay for tuition.

"Sadio has been a part of the Fairview Southdale Station 88 team since March of 2017," said Allison Stratton, Aar's manager.

"We were impressed by Sadio’s commitment to serving others as shared about her previous work serving the community, and in her role as a social worker prior to completing her nursing degree. She is a wonderful asset to our team as she comes with a smile on her face every day and has a graceful presence. She cares for her patients and family members with the utmost respect. Her patients truly adore her kindness, compassion, and knowledge at the bed side." 

Aar feels that the Nursing Diversity Initiative has allowed her to cut down on her hours at work and invest more time in school and giving back to the community to enhance her nursing education.

“The Initiative will allow me to utilize all the opportunities the BSN program has to offer,” Aar noted. “It will maximize my education by being able to do more reflective learning and implementing new knowledge and skills that I gain into my daily nursing practice.”

BSN and Community health

While Aar earns her BSN degree, she also plans on completing her public health nurse certification.

“My overall goal in obtaining my BSN degree is to first and foremost give back to the underserved communities,” Aar stated. “I plan on doing this through community outreach and public health education. I also plan on applying the skills and knowledge I gain through my BSN program in my daily practice of nursing and implementing more mindfulness and reflective nursing in my daily practice.”

Aar believes that obtaining her BSN degree and becoming a public health certified nurse will give her the opportunity to work with community members in a different capacity.

“I believe that those who are closest to the problems and who have a deeper understanding of what specific community health disparities are have a better understanding of what solutions are needed to bring about systemic changes to those communities,” Aar explained.

new perspective on health disparities

As a first-generation immigrant who grew up in poverty and comes from a community with significant health disparities, Aar believes it is her responsibility to utilize the knowledge and skills she gains through the BSN program to give back to the community. She plans to use her BSN degree to work at the community level with patients and their families and advocate for bridging the health disparities gap.

A BSN degree will allow Aar to develop a new way of thinking as a bedside nurse by implementing evidence-based-practices into her daily nursing practice.

It would empower me to better advocate for my patients and their families and help me develop better teamwork skills that encouraged collaborative and continuity of care between members of the healthcare team,” Aar commented.

Outside of school and work, Aar enjoys serving the community in her spare time - whether it is helping an immigrant fill out applications, helping a student with their homework, or connecting individuals with resources that promote stability. Aar enjoys listening to their hopes and dream and hearing about their journeys that brought them to where they are now. In addition, Aar enjoys spending time with family and friends as well as partaking in some of her hobbies including traveling, nature, hiking, watching movies, and drinking coffee over a nice conversation.