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By  Dilkhwaz Ahmed

Jonathan Goetz and Nital Meshkoor contributed to this story

Photo: These 13 students are helping to help make America great.

August 11, 2018 (El Cajon) – Sharp Grossmont Hospital, the Grossmont Healthcare District and License to Freedom are preparing some promising young bilingual refugees in east county for nursing careers.

Thirteen high school juniors with good grades graduated earlier this month from a one-week intensive program at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. Ten of them still plan to pursue nursing as a way to help their community and the community at large.

The students started on Monday, July 30, graduated on August 3 and were shown the process of applying for nursing programs. Lindsey Ryan, PHD, Registered Nurse, and Manager of Innovation and Performance Excellence at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, helped organize the program and brought speakers from various universities' schools of nursing.

The students toured the entire medical campus over the course of the program and were taught about the importance of responsibility and confidentiality.

These 13 who can make America greater, stronger, and safer, seemed very happy, especially on August 3 when their parents came to their graduation. Sharp provided the new graduates uniforms and certificates.

License to Freedom coordinated community outreach, carpools and, along with the juniors, Thursday's health fair.

Many of the parents cried. One said to me, “Tell me, why is Sharp Grossmont interested in my kids,” to which I replied, “They care because your kids are part of this community and they want your kids to be successful.”

For the first time, the students and their parents were able to go to the Grossmont Healthcare District and sit in the chairs and be welcomed by Barry Jantz. Jantz told the students he was proud of them, and that he supports this program, as does the district.

The students are all in East County and receive good grades.  All are U.S. Citizens or permanent residents, and are fluent in both English and either Arabic, Persian/Farsi, Kurdish, Turkish or Dari. Many applied, 13 were selected, 10 of whom still wish to pursue nursing after the intensive week of study at the hospital.

Part of the students' commitment for this program was to hold a community health fair. Around 200 people were invited and many brought their families who shared their experiences. An estimated 250 people attended.

The Center for Social Advocacy (CSA) San Diego County had a booth, as did the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch, the Domestic Violence Task Force, Elder Multicultural Access and Support Services Program, Family Health Centers of San Diego, La Maestra medical and dental clinics, License to Freedom, the San Diego City Attorney, San Diego River Park Foundation, Sharp Grossmont Hospital, Survivors of Torture, and the Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC).

Photo, right: CSA San Diego County provides services for tenants and landlords concerning housing. They help clients respond to fair housing discrimination, notices for 30, 60, 90 days, rent increases, illegal evictions and security deposit issues.

Other issues CSA addresses, according to their website, include: hate crime prevention, civil rights of first generation immigrants, human trafficking, youth education, and voter education.

For more information, contact:

CSA San Diego County Fair Housing

131 Avocado Ave., El Cajon CA 92020

Phone: (619) 444-5700

Photo, left: The Elder Multicultural Access and Support Services (EMASS) program supports the County of San Diego’s Older Adult System of Care Framework in improving a person’s quality of life. EMASS Program’s mission is to provide mental health promotion, education and prevention and wellness activities to increase community awareness about mental health issues and resources available for older adults.

Photo, right: Family Health Centers of San Diego’s (FHCSD) mission is “to provide caring, affordable, high-quality health care and supportive services to everyone, with a special commitment to uninsured, low-income and medically underserved persons.”

Their clinics in east county include the Chase Avenue Family Health Center, the City Heights Family Health Center and dental clinic, the El Cajon Family Health Center, the Grossmont Spring Valley Family Health Center and dental clinic, the Grossmont Family Counseling Center, the Lemon Grove Family Health Center, and the Spring Valley Family Counseling Center.

For more information about health insurance options, please contact an FHCSD certified enrollment counselor at (619) 515-2363 or and/or visit

Photo, left: La Maestra operates the City Heights Health Center and dental clinic, the El Cajon First Street Health Center and dental clinic, the El Cajon Broadway Health Center and dental clinic, and Lemon Grove dental clinic.

La Maestra offers well physicals, immunizations, sick visits, same day visits, specialist referrals, continuing care and more, at Central Elementary, Hoover High School, Monroe Clark Middle and Rosa Parks Elementary schools.

To schedule an appointment with La Maestra or learn more, you may call (619) 779-7900 and/or visit

Photo, right: Survivors of Torture International provide services for victims of torture and their families. They facilitate their healing process by providing free counseling sessions through holistic programs, psychological, psychiatric and mental clinic referrals, and furthermore they provide other medical, dental and social services. They also advocate for the abolition of torture. For more information, call (619) 278-2421 or visit or e-mail

The community is rallying behind these promising high school students from war-torn countries. If anyone makes America great perhaps it is these unlucky 13.

The community effort is more than just about training people to become nurses. It is also about raising the self-esteem of the refugee students the dialogue of an administration looking for scapegoats, Muslim bans, and separating children from parents as a “deterrent.”

This program changed the student and family expectations of what kind of lives to expect living in America. Many had felt as if no one cared because they were refugees, and they were left behind. El Cajon and east county are raising their aspirations, and hopefully, their lifetime incomes to build a greater, safer and healthier America.

Sharp Grossmont Hospital restored their confidence in the American dream and improved their sense of identity. The Grossmont Healthcare District wants to see them grow and serve their community and the community at large.

Another special event by License to Freedom is coming up August 27. For more information on how to sign-up, contact (619) 401-2800 or

About License to Freedom

Stopping domestic violence in refugee and immigrant communities in San Diego County

Photo, left: Dilkhwaz Ahmed, Executive Director, August 9, 2018

License to Freedom is a non-profit community-based organization that promotes nonviolence through community education, self-sufficiency and advocacy for refugee and immigrant survivors of domestic and relationship abuse in the east county and San Diego region.

We are a group of advocates that believe every person has a right to live without fear. We believe that refugee and immigrant battered women and children should be able to seek and receive help and services that are respectful of our languages, cultures, race, age, sexual orientation, disabilities and religious beliefs.

Legal Program

In partnership with Access, Inc. and the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, License to Freedom provides legal assistance and support to refugee and immigrant victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking in San Diego County.

Services offered include: pro bono legal assistance, immigration law (VAWA, U visa and T visa process, related protections such as Waiver of Joint Filing for Removal of Conditions on Residency), family law (such as restraining orders, divorce, and custody), criminal law (guidance and support through the process), other areas as needed including employment law and access to public benefits, and legal services for victims of sexual and non-intimate violence.

Mental health services can be obtained through License to Freedom, including individuals, couple, and group therapy for kids, adults and elder survivors of domestic violence.

A 52-week domestic violence recovery program certified by the County of San Diego Probation Department is also offered in different languages, as well as expressive art and music therapy, parenting classes, anger management and weekly arts and crafts workshops for women.

License to Freedom's Community Dialogue for Change program empowers refugees and immigrant communities to embrace visions of family life built on meaningful communication and mutual dignity, safety and self-respect.

License to Freedom also offers English as a second language and acculturation, domestic violence education and prevention workshops, advocacy on behalf of battered refugee and immigrant women, women's support groups, forced marriage victim advocacy and policy work, child abuse prevention, services for victims of trafficking, sexual abuse and assault prevention, leadership and civic training and feeding the homeless in east county.

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