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NOCE Professor Inspires and Gets Inspired Feature Story
Professor Jennifer Oo is no stranger to inspiration. As faculty lead of the allied health programs at North Orange Continuing Education (NOCE), Oo inspires students every day to improve their careers and lives by pursuing their educational goals. But Oo isn’t the only one doing the inspiring.
“Nontraditional students are my favorite to teach because they are tenacious, grateful, and hardworking,” says Oo. “They are motivated to graduate to be the first in their families, and they go above and beyond with the best attitude, wearing a smile.”
NOCE’s wide range of noncredit programs give working adults and other nontraditional learners a chance to enhance basic skills, improve employability, prepare for college credit courses, enhance self‐sufficiency, and more. Programs offered include adult basic skills (High School Diploma and Literacy Programs), English as a Second Language (ESL), U.S. citizenship, parenting, older adults, short‐term vocational, and programs for adults with disabilities.
Like all NOCE’s faculty, Oo understands that nontraditional learners often have significant obstacles that need to be overcome in order to achieve their educational goals. Because of this, these students are often more grateful for the support they receive than students who have always had college in mind. As a mother of four, Oo has shared her students’ challenges juggling time management, financial responsibilities, and family duties, and she understands how meaningful and important seemingly small successes can be.
Eight years ago, Oo joined NOCE as a full-time faculty member. Today, as faculty lead for NOCE’s allied health programs, she oversees the Personal Care Aide Certificate and the Medical Assistant Certificate. Both are offered online and designed to be completed quickly so graduates can get to work soon. After graduation, students are workforce-ready and prepared for entry-level positions in these in-demand occupations.
Prior to joining NOCE, Oo was a continuing education adjunct at several colleges in California, including American Career College, Charter College, and Mt. San Antonio College, where she learned to love the grit and determination of the countless continuing education students who were improving their English, completing high school equivalency programs, upgrading their career skills, and seeking the opportunity that comes with greater education.
One story stands out to Oo as particularly inspiring. Five years ago, one of her students immigrated to the U.S. from Syria as a refugee. Despite being alone and only 18-years-old, he had a clear plan: to complete NOCE’s Medical Assisting Program and enlist in the military to help his family emigrate from Syria. Today, he is a proud member of the U.S. military and on his way to bringing his family together.
“Every day, he came to class with a huge smile even though he was separated from his family,” Oo says. “What he overcame was inspirational.”
Oo grew up in a small town with “three common career choices and not much career coaching,” says Oo. One of those options was to become a doctor. But during her junior year of medical school, Oo decided she wanted to build a family and realized that the requirements of being doctor would make that very difficult. She needed something different.
In 2001, Oo decided to enroll in nursing school and after completing her B.S. spent the next few years growing her career. When a chance opportunity to teach part-time at a career college came her way, Oo was excited to give it a try.
“I always thought I wasn’t going to become a nurse,” Oo laughs, “But I enjoy clinical nursing, and it’s a skill set I’m good at, so teaching nursing is the best lane for me.”
Over time, Jennifer grew to love teaching where she could share her passion for nursing, empower her students with new skills, and help build their confidence for the future. But Oo wasn’t the only one doing inspiring.
“I would see my students, single moms of multiple children who work two jobs, come to school and get straight A’s,” explains Oo. “They never miss a day, and they motivate me every day.”
Over time, these experiences inspired Oo to pursue her own personal and professional growth goals. In 2020, Oo enrolled in a master’s program to become a nurse practitioner. As a working adult and mother of four, returning to college hasn’t been easy. But Oo isn’t making excuses.
“Every student who shares their personal story about overcoming adversity has inspired me somehow,” Jennifer explains. “I look at them and am motivated to keep striving for success.”
For more information about NOCE’s many programs, please visit https://noce.edu/.