Internships Connected Bio Science Alumna To Community

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Since graduating from Dominican University of California, Salena Herrera '20 has continued to be a community resource as a Case Manager at Genentech and a Rehabilitation Therapy Guide at Kentfield Hospital.

The Biological Sciences major at Dominican connected with the community through her work as an intern with Marin Community Clinic, a Certified Nursing Assistant at South Marin Health and Wellness Center, and packaging and distributing food to needy families for Health Hubs. Before the pandemic she also worked in the office as a Title X intern.

Salena was already a familiar face at Dominican. The Moreau Catholic High School graduate joined the TORCH leadership member her freshmen year and that motivated her to become an orientation leader, peer mentor and ultimately Senior Class Senator for Associated Students of Dominican University (ASDU).

In between, she volunteered to be historian for the TriBeta Biological Honor Society and she worked alongside Dr. Diara Spain, chair of the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, on research that investigates how ocean acidification affects intertidal shore crabs. Salena not only continued her research with the crabs, but also was given the opportunity to work on a project involving the effectiveness of a case study being used to teach a science topic to non-science major and science major students.

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Furthermore, Salena worked weekends as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at South Marin Health & Wellness Center, a skilled nursing facility in Greenbrae. That role inspired her to change her career path from Physician Assistant to becoming a nurse.

“My Dominican experience was enriching and full of growth during those four years,” she said.

That experience got even more enriching – and interesting – her final semester at Dominican when Salena discovered she needed one more Service-Learning designated class in order to complete her minor in Community Action and Social Change (CASC) to graduate. She had class scheduling conflicts, but Emily Wu, Jenny Bray, and Julia van der Ryn in the Center for Community Engagement found the opportunity for Salena with Marin Community Clinics.

The internship allowed Salena to complete her requirements for the CASC minor that aligned perfectly with her Bio Science major in the School of Health and Natural Sciences.

“What I learned in biology that most applied to my internship was being able to have a basic foundation of the biological systems,” Salena said. “Already having some knowledge in reproductive health helped me be better understand what Title X stood for in regards to family planning and the importance of sharing this knowledge with the community to ensure women and men can exercise their rights to make voluntary and informed decisions about the number, spacing, and timing of pregnancies.”

When a shelter-in-place order was issued in March 2020, MCC temporarily assigned Salena to one of its programs, Health Hubs, which needed assistance serving more than 1,000 people at its food pantry. In the meantime, Salena continued to support Census 2020 outreach and awareness efforts. In fact, she did the English version for a short Census 2020 video for social media in addition to contributing to and leading a video about Service-Learning community engagement, also in 2020.

Basically Salena was super busy. She handled the multitude of circumstances and challenges that came her way.

“Given all the leadership and educational opportunities Dominican provided me I can positively say accomplished all I would want from a college,” Salena said. “I left Dominican with not only professional connections and friendly ones as well, but I will was equipped with the tools I need to further accomplish my career goals after graduation.”

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