Meet Bright Mensah, a Blue Ridge nursing student, husband, father, and most recently, COVID vaccinator.
Originally from Ghana, West Africa, this 43-year-old developed an interest in healthcare from an early age. Inspired by his mother’s dreams of becoming a nurse and a natural drive to help others, Bright pursued a career that would combine healthcare with his love of helping those in need.
As a young adult, he served as a youth leader at his church. He attended the School of Social Work in Ghana, and it was through this program that he earned his associate degree and became a medical social worker.
“Getting that job offer to be a medical social worker just bolstered my desire to be a nurse, and to be in that environment,” he said.
In 2008, Bright joined the Eckerd Youth Alternatives (EYA) program as an outdoor therapeutic counselor. EYA camps are designed to help young people by teaching them valuable life skills in an outdoor setting. Bright was brought to one of the EYA camps in Florida, where he quickly settled into the role of a camp counselor, or Chief as they were called within the EYA program – a reference to Native American philosophy.
In addition to functioning in the traditional role of counselor, Bright would also have to take on the role of caregiver or “nurse” given the outdoor therapy program’s structure. Nurses were only available during the day, leaving the counselors to take care of emergent needs at night.
“This was a great learning experience in nurturing, because kids can’t take everything that adults can, so this really helped prepare me to become a nurse later in my life,” he said.
Bright references several lessons learned in his time with Eckerd, namely the importance of taking care of the whole person – physically and psychologically. “Taking care of someone’s psychological and physical needs will help them overall. What’s happened in their life? In their workplace? What sort of baggage are they carrying that’s affecting their life?” he added.
Bright ultimately met his wife, Karla, while working with Eckerd and the two were transferred to an EYA camp between Hendersonville and Brevard, and have remained in the area since.
Bright’s desire to become a nurse never wavered. Unfortunately, after moving to North Carolina, he discovered that his associate degree from Ghana wasn’t transferrable. In order to earn a nursing degree, he would need to earn his GED and enroll in a program. Luckily, he found Blue Ridge Community College and obtained his GED. After a few years of working in the area, Bright applied and was accepted into the nursing program at Blue Ridge Community College.
Bright is now working toward his Associate in Applied Science – Associate Degree Nursing. In the final year of his program, Bright was thrown squarely into the middle of the COVID pandemic as a volunteer vaccinator in the Pardee UNC Health Care vaccine clinic.
“You hear about pandemics that have happened, but very few people alive today have lived through one. As a nurse, we play a very important role in maintaining the health of our community.”
Bright offers high praise for the affordability of Blue Ridge’s programs, and the personable relationship instructors forge with their students. He said the College is always looking toward the future and looking for what comes next.
“Blue Ridge has helped me immensely. My instructors are always there for me. They’re there to listen. They train you hard so that when you get into your field, you are not found wanting. I truly feel prepared for the next phase of my life thanks to Blue Ridge.”
Bright and his wife Karla live in Hendersonville with their son and three foster children. He is the recipient of the Bob and Louise Dunlap nursing scholarship through the Blue Ridge Community College Educational Foundation.
For more information about Blue Ridge’s nursing program, visit blueridge.edu.