Bradley (at right) and Grinder (center) offer words of encouragement to a young person at the Covenant House. Photo by Yvette Delacruz.

Last week Kaiser Permanente Contract Liaison Deborah Grinder and Local 400 Executive Board member Jaki Bradley, a Kaiser registered nurse who is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and commander of the U.S. Army’s 7202nd Medical Support Unit visited the Covenant House in Washington, D.C.  As part of the Community Services Agency program with the Covenant House, Grinder and Bradley shared their personal stories of the challenges they had to overcome in order to reach their fullest potential today as professionals in the medical and military fields.

Since 1995 the Covenant House of Washington has aimed to serve homeless young people who have had their childhoods “stolen.” They provide opportunities to uplift their spirits and avenues that encourage them to prosper toward a greater future.

“It was a rewarding experience to tell my story,” said Grinder. “I think I even shocked a few of them.”

At the age of fifteen, Grinder was homeless, living under an overpass taking one class each semester to achieve her G.E.D. while still working a job and eventually raising a family.

“It’s not a story I share often, but I felt it was important to be able to relate to the young people,” said Grinder. “If we inspired just one person during our presentation…we’ve succeeded.”

In addition to her contract liaison role, Grinder is a lead nurse in cardiology at Kaiser Permanente as well as performance improvement specialist to help facilitate unit based teams and their progress within the region.

Many of the young people who attended the presentation had G.E.Ds, certificates or were licensed to be medical assistants. However, in this economy they were having trouble finding a job and attended the presentation seeking advice on where to start in the job search. Other attendees were previously involved in the ROTC or attended a military school in their lives.

As a commander of an Army unit, a nurse practitioner at Kaiser and member of Local 400’s executive board, Bradley was still able to make time to visit the young people in the community.

“I was able to achieve this because someone believed in me – my high school nurse,” Bradley, Local 400 Shop Steward, Vice President and Board Member, told the students.  “I’m here today because I believe in you.”

Both Grinder and Bradley will be returning to the Covenant House in the future to discuss scholarships and to make another presentation.