FDNY paramedic Bree Brown-Rosa ’23 understands how challenging it can be to pay for your education, especially as a non-traditional student. “A lot of the financial aid and scholarships out there are reserved for traditional students,” explains Brown-Rosa, who is a dual major in cell and molecular biology and world history. “That forces many non-traditional students to pay out of pocket, or cut back on classes, slowing our progress.” Then she heard about the Women’s Forum of New York Education Fund, which targets women over 35 who are earning a BA.
“Thanks to New York’s Women’s Forum, I’m one step closer to completing my bachelor’s degree and medical school.” —Bree Bruin-Rosa ’23
“It was great to find an organization that aims to uplift and empower women over the age of 35,” said Brown-Rosa, who was named an Education Fund Scholar in 2021. “The money from the Women’s Forum of New York Education Fund came into my life at just the right time. It allowed me to continue my education with John Jay full-time – paying for two semesters – while also taking care of my son , could afford childcare and invest in our future. Thanks to the New York Women’s Forum, I am one step closer to completing my bachelor’s degree and medical training.”
Brown-Rosa has always dreamed of working in the medical field. The first time she enrolled in college, she was excited to study biology, but found getting used to college life a challenge. “I was 17 and away from home for the first time. I was scared, homesick, and struggled—which reflected my academic record,” says Brown-Rosa. During her freshman year, an accident prompted her to drop out of school and return home. “My mother was hit by a car and I wanted to take care of her, so I came back to the Bronx and found a job in a restaurant,” she says. She discovered that she liked cooking and decided to go to culinary school.
become an entrepreneur
After graduating from culinary school, Brown-Rosa became a pastry chef at several of New York’s hottest restaurants and even started her own successful personal chef called Baking by Bree. “Having my own business allowed for flexibility, including starting a family.” While pregnant with her son, Christopher, Brown-Rosa was put on bed rest at a local hospital. Watching hard-working medical teams save lives around her, Brown-Rosa’s ambitions to become a doctor were rekindled. “I started to re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my life. I felt like I could contribute so much more to the world. Then I decided to go back to college and one day Dr. Bree Brown-Rosa.”
Working in the public service
Brown-Rosa closed her business and enrolled in an accelerated Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program at LaGuardia Community College. “I knew this was what I needed to get my foot in the door of the medical profession,” explains Brown-Rosa. “After completing the program, an instructor suggested that I apply for a full scholarship to attend LaGuardia’s allied health school. A year later I graduated, top of my class, a full-fledged paramedic.” Brown-Rosa went on to work as a paramedic with the New York City Fire Department, graduating from the Fire Department Academy, and training as a hazardous materials paramedic. “As a HazTac paramedic, I am trained to provide emergency medical care to people in hazardous material environments such as nuclear events and most recently Covid-19 where I worked on the front lines.”
Comes to John Jay
“John Jay College is known for its criminal justice programs, but what many people may not know is its strong ties to the FDNY and emergency services. I was researching the College and once I saw it majored in cell and molecular biology I was all in. I knew John Jay would help me get to medical school.”
“I knew John Jay would help me study medicine.” —Bree Brown-Rosa ’23
Looking to the future
“I want to work in internal medicine and become a general practitioner. There’s a huge shortage in that area because it’s one of the least paid, but I think it’s an area that a community can provide the most help,” she says. “GPs are embedded in communities and have long-term relationships with their patients. It is a crucial role with a deep impact.”
“No matter your age or circumstance in life, know that you can achieve your goals.” —Bree Brown-Rosa ’23
Thinking about all the twists and turns it took to get to this moment, Brown-Rosa is grateful for the support she’s received along the way. “From the EMT program to the FDNY to the New York Women’s Forum, they have all played such an important role in helping me achieve this dream,” she says. “I hope other non-traditional students know that it is possible to get their degree. Regardless of your age or circumstances in life, know that you can achieve your goals. You have the power to make it happen. All you have to do is take that first step.”