Penn State Berks practical nursing grad overcomes obstacles to earn certificate

Mamadou Diallo

Mamdou Diallo began the 18-month program in August 2022. Along with his studies in the classroom, he also gained hands-on clinical experience with community partnerships in the greater Berks County area.

Credit: Mackenzie Cullen

WYOMISSING, Pa. — When Mamadou Diallo was a young boy growing up in the African country of Guinea, he befriended a blind, intellectually disabled orphan and, after much pleading, eventually convinced his parents to take the boy in, even though his family did not have the means to support another child. In fact, Diallo was so committed to helping his friend that he shared his own meager food rations and clothing with him.  

That spirit of compassion has remained a defining quality throughout Diallo’s life. After a lifetime devoted to helping others, he crossed the stage at the Penn State Berks commencement ceremony as a graduate of the college’s practical nursing certificate program on Saturday, Dec. 16.  

He began the 18-month program in August 2022. Along with his studies in the classroom, he also gained hands-on clinical experience with community partnerships in the greater Berks County area. He is now eligible for the final step: completion of the National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurse, or NCLEX-PN.  

Diallo has seen a lot of suffering in his life, he said, which eventually led him to enroll in the practical nursing program. In his native country, he witnessed blatant disregard for people with disabilities, such as the orphan he befriended. He explained, “In a country where obtaining a meal a day for the general population is a struggle, it was especially difficult for an individual with blindness and a mental disability to get a handful of rice.”  
Just as Diallo graduated from college in Guinea and was finally able to help his family financially, his mother became seriously ill with an infection. The family could not afford the antibiotics that she needed, so the infection quickly spread, and led to her death. Her dying words to Diallo, he said, were to “never stop helping the needy and continue to always educate yourself.” 
Shortly after his mother passed away, Diallo immigrated to the United States. Coming from a French-speaking country, his first priority was to improve his English language skills, so he took English as a Second Language courses at Reading Area Community College (RACC). With his improved language skills and history of caring for others, Diallo was able to land a position working with Prospectus Berco, a nonprofit organization that enriches the lives of people with disabilities by providing innovative community participation, community living, employment opportunities and family support services. 

Soon, Diallo had saved enough money that he was able to send for his wife to join him in the United States.  

He worked his way up at Prospectus Berco from a resident adviser to residential services supervisor. Then he returned to RACC and completed courses to become a certified nursing aide. This certification allowed him to work extra hours in local nursing and private homes, where he assisted elderly patients as a certified nursing aide. He also continued to work at Prospectus Berco, moving into the position of medication administrator trainer.  

In the essay he wrote to apply for Penn State Berks practical nursing program, he wrote, “With more than two decades of experiences providing care to people of all ages in different capacities … if I am blessed to be accepted in your wonderful program, I’ll make sure my dying mother’s last words continue to be my guiding principle.” 

Diallo excelled in the practical nursing program, receiving the Excellence in Clinical Practice Award, presented to the nursing student who best displays a high regard for clinical care and clinical aptitude. He also received the Most Compassionate Award and was recognized for perfect attendance.  

After completing the NCLEX-PN, Diallo said he plans to work as a licensed practical nurse on a part-time basis, while maintaining his position with Prospectus Berco, an organization that he loves. 

When asked about the program, he stated, “Louise Frantz, the program coordinator, and the faculty were great; they were always there to help.” His advice to future students: “Help is available — don’t be afraid to ask.” 

Diallo resides in Shillington with his wife, who also works for Prospectus Berco, and four children. His daughter is currently enrolled in a bachelor of science in nursing degree program and his son is interested in taking healthcare courses in the fall.  

For more information on Penn State Berks practical nursing program, visit the practical nursing webpage or contact Cathleen Phillips, education program specialist, at [email protected] or 610-396-6225.