BAMA recently honored its 2015 and 2016 medical assistant and pharmacy technician graduates. The ceremony took place at Little Marina Green, San Francisco. The celebrations also happily coincided with the school’s 10-year anniversary of helping transform student’s lives throughout the Bay Area with career-focused health care training.
On the day, one particular medical assistant graduate, Amber Townsend, touched all of our hearts with her commencement speech — so much so that we thought we’d post the speech in full (with Amber’s blessings, of course) to the BAMA blog.
Amber is confirmation, like all of BAMA’s graduates are, that nothing is too far out of reach when you set your heart and mind to going after what matters to you in life, no matter the struggles or setbacks.
Here is Amber’s commencement speech…
Hear from a Bay Area Medical Academy Graduate
“My name is Amber Townsend, I attended Bay Area Medical Academy from July 2015 to February 2016. I may have only been there for 7 months, but my road to success was long, bumpy, hard, and sometimes it was difficult to see how I would succeed. I knew I wanted more out of my life and once I had my son, I knew he deserved only the best that I could provide.
I got a rocky start growing up in East Oakland. My parents were both addicts and they couldn’t provide a stable home. Luckily there were family and friends to step in and help provide me with the care I needed, but I didn’t have that strong parental force in my life to tell me what was possible; what I was capable of accomplishing. You see, at the time I didn’t think I could graduate high school. I never thought I had a chance for the simple reason I never had anyone care whether I did or didn’t. Yet in 2008 I got my high school diploma because I could see how my life in East Oakland wouldn’t get better. I’ve always been a cautious individual, I saw early-on the downside of drugs and alcohol; how it tears families apart. I knew I needed an education. I knew I did not want the life my parents had. I wanted out of East Oakland and I wanted better.
Then I met a boy and I was in love.
He was going to be the man I would marry, the one I would spend the rest of my life with. So goodbye Oakland, hello Los Angeles. Not long after settling into L.A. I got some news. I was pregnant. And suddenly, there was another person I had to think about. I was excited to find out I was having a baby, but I was so afraid. How was I going to care for my son? Would I turn out like my own mother? I was also terrified. I was terrified because the last thing my father told me a week before was “don’t get pregnant.”
Thankfully, I survived that conversation with my father, Who at this point of life has been clean and sober for 11 years. On March 10, 2010 I gave birth to my life, my motivation, and my reasons for trying to be the best mother I could be, my son Robert. I started taking classes at Santa Monica City College, but didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then in 2012 my little sister came to tell me my mother was diagnosed with AIDS. I was devastated. I knew I wanted something better for my son. In April 2013 I lost my mother to an Overdose of drugs, and the complications she had with her heart, from the extensive years of drug use. At the moment that’s when I knew the medical field was for me!
I attended the Heald MA program and when Heald closed in 2015, Simonida came in person to talk about her program. She came directly to me and let me know that she heard my story of being a single mom, being unemployed, and scared of acquiring more debt! She asked that I “please have faith” in her school. So I spoke to my dad and my aunt who came to the school armed with questions. And after our meeting my aunt looked at me and said “Go get them Amber!”
Being a single parent, as some of you may know, brings extra challenges. My sons father and i split after the death of my mother back in 2013. My son Robert was with me during my interview with Mrs. Earby, running around like a ‘wild child’. She just brought him over, had him sit next to her, and asked “Why BAMA Amber?” After telling her my story, she said “We’re going to get you a better future for your son and yourself.”
So I enrolled in BAMA. And sometimes I would get overwhelmed but I would talk to Denise, Mrs. Earby, or Simonida and they’d all say “Your son needs you!! Get back to class and knock them dead!!”
Before I knew it, it was time to graduate.
My son, my father, my cousin, my sister all came to watch my accomplishment! As I walked that carpet, even today as I walk this stage, and give this speech. I thank everyone who pushed me, and still thank them till this day. If it wasn’t for the amazing people at BAMA, my whole family, or the motivation of my child, I wouldn’t be where I am.
Since becoming a mom, all I have ever wanted was to become the best one I could possibly be. I don’t want to repeat the mistakes of my own mother. Instead I want to be the mother I never had. Being a single parent is difficult, but the rewards are extraordinary.
Because of my hard work & drive, the support of BAMA, my friends, my family, and despite all the challenges I have overcome in life, I now work as a Phlebotomist and Harm Reduction Team Member at Glide Memorial.
Robert, I keep pushing because of you. Look what mommy did! I want you to imagine all of the things you can do and if you’re having a hard time imagining, let me help you, they are possible.”
BAMA is proud to partner with Walgreens to provide students with a 240-hour, on-the-job
clinical pharmacy technician externship at one of the largest drugstore chains in the US.