How one disabled student turned her life around with a college education

Photo SBVC: Amaka Edith Eboka, 46, of San Bernardino, found the specialized support she needed after becoming disabled at San Bernardino Valley College.

When an unexpected disability forced her leave her job as a nursing assistant several years ago, Amaka Edith Eboka, 46, of San Bernardino, felt that her family’s future was in ruins. Disabled, in pain, and struggling to find resources to help her get back on her feet, Eboka decided to go back to school. Now, she is nearing the completion of a degree in human services at San Bernardino Valley College, and will soon be re-entering the workforce as a substance abuse counselor.

“When I came back to SBVC, I had nothing,” she said. “My hopes were shattered. The only job I knew how to do was nursing assistant, which I could no longer do due to my ill health.” Eboka’s daughter was born with sickle cell anemia, and both were in and out of the hospital. “I was beginning to lose it,” she said, but “when I stepped into SBVC, the CalWORKs staff embraced me and encouraged me.”

The Office of CalWORKs and Workforce Development—one of the many student support programs at SBVC—helps students reach their educational goals, providing assistance with employment, child care and book vouchers. Eboka said SBVC staff have gone the “extra mile” to provide her with not only support and counseling, but necessities like clothing, and other departments on campus have lent a helping hand, as well. The SBVC Police Department recently surprised her with a small room heater, and the Disabled Student Services and Programs (DSPS) program has provided her with a steady flow of resources to help her succeed academically.

“I am pleased to be associated with SBVC Disabled Student Programs and Services, as they have a great support program for all disabled students,” Eboka said. “Ms. Ana [Bojorquez] is always willing to help every student that walks into the High Tech Center, and I think that’s awesome.”

Bojorquez herself is an SBVC alumna who became immobilized many years ago after an accident. She started volunteering on campus as a way to distract herself from her own disability, mastering technology that would help disabled students function in the ordinary world. Today, she helps students with varying disabilities at the High Tech Center with all the programming they need to move up to the next level of their learning experience, as well as re-enter the workforce. “Valley College has a lot of resources for them,” she said. “The students that take advantage of the resources are fine. They continue, they finish, they find jobs at the university level with all kinds of disabilities.”

Although she is close to completing her degree, Eboka continues to benefit from the support of various resources and departments at SBVC. She has enjoyed taking classes with Professors Melinda Moneymaker, Maria Cox, and Scott Hoage, who all told her one thing: “You can do it, don’t ever give up.”

Eboka lives with pain every day, “but I do not allow my limitation to determine how far I can go in life,” she said. The encouragement she has received from SBVC’s financial aid, CalWORKs, and other student support programs has helped Eboka push forward, with her determination carrying her further. “There is an ability in every disability,” she said.