Montenegro was still called Yugoslavia when Nermina Kolenovic’s parents left the war torn country to carve out a better life in The Bronx. It wasn’t easy. Jobs had to be found, a new language had to be learned. Nermina and a sibling were born a few years later.
Life was hard and money was tight. Nermina’s older sister sacrificed to help raise her younger siblings. Nermina worked all through high school and contributed what she could. But her most important job was to excel in school and earn a scholarship to college. Education was the path to a better future. Excel she did… earning a nearly perfect GPA. Nermina wanted to go into healthcare and knew Monroe had an excellent program. The day she was accepted, she became the first in her family to attend college.
She enrolled in the Medical Assisting program and was soon volunteering in health clinics in the area. She loved the work was asked to join Monroe’s Medical Mission Team. The team traveled to West Virginia coal country to help miners rehab from black lung disease. They also visited poor communities and elementary schools to talk about nutrition. The struggles faced by those kids reminded her of her own childhood and that’s when Nermina had her “aha” moment. By teaching, she would be able to help more people.
Today she’s completing a Bachelor’s in Public Health and plans to travel to schools in NYC with the message that better health and nutrition don’t have to cost a lot. Positive change, she says, comes from pushing yourself and always believing you can accomplish your goals. Her journey is living proof.