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Penny Penniman Has Dedicated Her Life to Opening Doors Wider in Nursing

Penny Penniman, Academic Skills Specialist, will address Labouré College’s Class of 2017 at the College’s Commencement Ceremony. Penny has recently retired from the College where she worked one-on-one with students to help them realize their dreams - a career in nursing.

Opening Doors Wider in Nursing
Most of Penny’s career has been spent at ODWIN in Dorchester. ODWIN stands for Opening Doors Wider in Nursing, and Penny has dedicated her career to doing just that.

The focus of ODWIN was to recruit and prepare more students of color for careers in nursing. ODWIN’s founder, Mary F. Malone, knew that this group was highly underrepresented in the nursing profession and wanted to work toward diversifying the face of nursing in Boston. At ODWIN, Penny served as a Reading Instructor and Academic Coordinator and taught a full load of courses. 

ODWIN closed in 2010 due to a lack of funding. At that time, President Maureen Smith, invited Penny to continue her work down the street at Labouré College.

ODWIN and Labouré College have a shared mission of providing a diverse group of women and men with access to high-quality healthcare education. Most Labouré students are working and raising families, and trying to balance these demands with their coursework. Some students have been away from the classroom for years – or even decades. Some are learning English and adapting to life in a new country. Many of them are the first in their family to be attending college.

Individualized academic skill training is critical for this student population. Nursing and healthcare curriculum is rigorous and steeped in math, science, and critical thinking. Penny was the perfect person to arm these students with the skills they need to get to graduation, pass their licensure exam, and start their new careers - which are often life-changing for themselves and their families.

The story of Labouré College alumna, Flor, illustrates Penny’s enormous impact. 

Flor’s Story
Flor was born and raised in Peru, where the closest medical facility was hours away from her home. Flor’s mother served as a local caregiver and would treat the people of her village who could not access professional medical care. As a girl, Flor watched her mother and knew that when she grew up, she would become a nurse and dedicate her life to caring for others.

As a young adult, Flor relocated to Boston and worked while attending Labouré. Then, in the middle of her nursing program, Flor’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and Flor returned to Peru to care for her. 

By the time she returned to Boston and began taking the rest of her classes, Flor had trouble remembering content from prior courses and was struggling to keep up. This is where Penny came in. The two spent hours together to relearn what Flor had forgot, and to successfully complete the remainder of the associate degree program. Penny provided Flor with the skills and the confidence she needed. 

In 2009, Flor graduated, passed her RN licensure board exam, and now has a successful nursing career at Hanscom Air Force Base. She attributes this success to Penny, tirelessly working with her to help her reach her goals. 

Penny’s Legacy
Flor represents hundreds of Labouré and ODWIN alumni who are working as nurses and providing exceptional care for tens of thousands of patients. This is the legacy Penny has created, all because of her passion and dedication to students’ success.

“I have loved my work with students seeking nursing and healthcare careers because of the students themselves. They have been an inspiration because of their intense desire to change their lives and the lives of their families, their commitment to achieving their goals despite formidable challenges and obstacles, and their eventual success. What greater reward could there be than seeing a student with whom I worked practicing nursing almost every time I had to visit a hospital? That and just the pleasure of having got to known so many wonderful, admirable people.” – Penny Penniman

Penny is truly a living embodiment of the mission and spirit of Labouré College. She will be missed, but the Labouré community wishes her the best of luck in retirement. Her next chapter will be spent living near the beach in Delaware with her sister where they spent summers growing up. 

Penny will deliver the 2017 Commencement Address on May 6 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 1545 Tremont St., Boston, MA, 02120. 

Labouré College is celebrating 125 years of nursing and healthcare education in Greater Boston. A private, non-profit institution, Labouré is guided by a Catholic mission of providing exceptional education to a diverse population of men and women who dream of a career in a caring for others.

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