Tony Bracamonte began his work at South Mountain in 1985 and was able to help the college in many ways. He developed the Learning Resource Center, The Testing Center, and later became an Associate Dean. As a Dean he was able to help create student service specialist positions, which we see today as the student services building. Later at South Mountain, Tony spearheaded the founding of the Bilingual Nursing Fellowship Program.
Tony grew up in Douglas, Arizona. While living in a border town, Tony was able to see and experience some multicultural backgrounds. He describes his childhood as living “a block away from the border” which can entail some pretty amazing memories I’m sure. Tony is sure to mention that he is a product of a community college. Shortly after completing his associate’s degree at Cochise College, he attended The University of Arizona majoring in Literature and History.
In 1985, Tony made his first appearance at South Mountain Community College. During his early years, Tony helped to develop a testing and learning center. He helped grow the faculty by advancing them to know more than one general area. For example, instead of one person only knowing about advisement, they may also know information about financial aid. A few years later Tony was named Associate Dean, where he supervised the advisement center, testing center and many other facilities at South Mountain.
The Bilingual Nursing Fellowship Program was one of Tony’s greatest accomplishments at South Mountain Community College. He received a call from Dr. Cardenas (President of South Mountain Community College 1977-1992) who then asked him along with others to create a program to help produce more Spanish speaking nurses. At the time Banner Hospital was having to bring in nurses from the Philippian Islands, not knowing they were not fluent in Spanish. The cost to bring these nurses to a different country ranged from 50,000 to 100,000 dollars. Tony had the idea to have a fellowship program at South Mountain. This idea was sparked because Tony had just recently finished a fellowship program himself. They soon partnered with Gateway Community College and planned to prepare the nurses at South Mountain, then Gateway would receive the nurses and later graduate them.
Input Video Clip (19:40 – 26:48) Tony talks us through the processes of the BNFP
The Bilingual Nursing Fellowship Program not only helped South Mountain CC grow, but it also helped grow the South Phoenix Community. Once South Mountain became known for creating nurses, other Universities reached out. Arizona State University was pulling many of the South Mountain students into their Bachelor programs (BSN). This fulfilled the goal, to hopefully have the students of South Mountain CC eventually become RN’s or further their education into medical school. Tony mentions a story of how his wife met nurses at St. Joseph’s Hospital who were apart of the Bilingual Nursing Program (BNFP). He ends this story with a reminder of how South Mountain CC produces many students who will be a big part of the community. “They’re out there” he says. This program is still up and running today at South Mountain CC, producing many more Spanish speaking nurses.
Input Video Clip (29:48 – 30:14) Tony shares the story of his wife and the nurses from St. Joseph’s Hospital
Tony has since retired from his work at South Mountain CC and is now known for most of his involvement in community activism. This activism was sparked by where he was from, Douglas. Living in a border town helped Tony to see some of the experiences that immigrants face. His interest started in the 1980’s to become a community activist. Through this activism Tony was able to visit border facilities in El Paso and see some of the horrible circumstances’ asylum-seeking immigrants were facing. He worked with many others on developing programs to help these immigrants. Tony values volunteers, as he notes that they are the ones who help make this country. “It takes millions of people to do something” he says during this interview.
Input Video Clip (52:22 – 56:58)
Tony ends his story with some advice to future students who come from impoverished homes/communities. “Develop a little worm inside of you… that says I can do better…be curious enough to go seek it [education]…once you are given that opportunity you can take advantage of it… education is important… the titles and degrees don’t matter it’s just if you have the basic skills…the rest is up to you”
Student Researcher: Alexa Key, Spring 2020