Samuel Merritt Nurses help elevate Healthy Meals Program
Get to know the nurses and the impact they're making

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United Way began an exciting new partnership with Samuel Merritt University and their RN to BSN nursing program. In January, United Way welcomed 7 nurse scholars from Samuel Merritt University to United Way. Through our partnership, the nurse scholars are working on a community health project as a requirement for their degree program. Thanks to support from the Walmart Foundation, the nurse scholars are working with United Way’s Healthy Meals Program to conduct nutrition education and cooking classes with our program partners.  Nurse scholars are teaching youth about balanced nutrition and helping youth develop basic cooking skills so they can be empowered in the kitchen. We are so lucky to have a team of wonderful nurses working with us at United Way! 

Get to know some of the nurses and learn more about our Healthy Meals Program:

Valerie Krug

Tells us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in San Mateo, CA and went to school there to get my associate degree in nursing in 1978. While in the nursing program, I met the man I would end up marrying. We moved to Sacramento in 1980 and have both been working at Kaiser in South Sacramento since 1983.

Why did you choose to become a nurse?

I was once told that if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. For the past 34 years, I have been working in the adult medicine clinic. I enjoy taking care of patients and giving advice, both in person and on the phone. Most of my career has been spent as a charge RN.

Why did you want to go back to school to get your BSN?

I have always wanted to further my education and career, but my dream didn’t turn into reality until I found out Samuel Merritt University offered this amazing opportunity. The program is designed to accomodate schedules for people who work full-time, giving them ample time to study and participate in clinicals. 

What have you enjoyed most about Samuel Merritt University’s partnership with United Way?

United Way has given me the chance to work with children and teach them the importance of good nutrition and health. I think it is imperative that we emphasize how being healthy is important in their everyday lives. I especially like the Rethink Your Drink campaign. It was amazing to most of the kids how much sugar is in sports drinks and other sugary drinks and how we really do not need those calories. Another reason for teaching good nutrition is to help kids stay in school. They are very receptive to the program and are eager for each lesson. 

Christina Salazar

Tells us a bit about yourself. 

I have been working for Kaiser Permanente for the last 18 years. Currently, I work in the Emergency Department up in Roseville. 

Why did you choose to become a nurse?

I love being a nurse and working with the community. Every day I go to work knowing I’m making a difference in someone’s life in a positive manner – no matter how small or big that change may be. My favorite thing about my job is not knowing what the night will bring – one thing is for sure, it’s never boring!

Why did you want to go back to school to get your BSN?

I wanted to go back to school to get my BSN for many reasons, the main one being that I want to advance my career. Down the road I’d like to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, a nurse executive, or a nurse educator. The first step on that journey is getting my BSN.

What have you enjoyed most about Samuel Merritt University’s partnership with United Way?

My experience with United Way has been fabulous and I’ve had a blast working with and getting to know people in my community even better. I have looked forward to my nutrition and cooking classes every week. The teens are smart and are always willing to help while the younger kids stay intrigued and are very eager to learn how to cook. They’re great a putting a smile on my face!

Daniella Davis

Tells us a bit about yourself.

I have been a RN for 20 years, 18 of those years have been spent in the NICU. In addition to work, I love spending time with my family.

Why did you choose to become a nurse?

My daughter was premature and that was when my desire to become a nurse working in the NICU was born. I love my tiny patients and their families. I get to witness miracles every day!

Why did you want to go back to school to get your BSN?

I have been at Kaiser Roseville NICU as a staff nurse since 2014. I absolutely love my unit and my coworkers. I had been thinking about returning to school to finish my BSN for years, but finances, work and family responsibilities always got in the way. Last year when I received a post card recruiting for the Kaisers Nurse Scholars Program partnering with Samuel Merritt University, along with the generous scholarship offered to us, I had to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity!

What have you enjoyed most about Samuel Merritt University’s partnership with United Way?

Since returning to school I’ve had a chance to experience my public health nursing clinical through United Way. My clinical group is teaching nutrition and healthy cooking lessons to students and adults at various sites in underserved communities. My experience as a whole has been very rewarding. The pupils I have encountered have been excited to learn and participate in the program. They especially love the cooking lessons and cooking demonstrations.

I feel honored to be serving the community and look forward to seeing how this will expand my nursing skills. I have experienced a renewed desire to serve my community in a meaningful way outside of the hospital clinical setting. I have enjoyed seeing the student’s faces as they learn about food groups, healthy eating and learning ways to prevent obesity and diet related diseases such as diabetes.

Often during cooking lessons as we are cutting veggies they may have never eaten they will make faces or say they don’t like veggies. After we are done cooking and taste the dish they have helped prepared, they often exclaim how much they enjoyed it!  If we can make one simple difference in a child’s life or adult for that matter and help them on to the road to healthier lifestyle, how wonderful is that?

I am looking forward to next semester as we finish up our public health clinical and seeing the eager faces of the next group of students. I also have to say how much Kristina Ricci the program officer at United Way has made this experience so worthwhile with support and training for us the Samuel Merritt students. She has gone out of her way to make sure our experience with United Way has gone smooth, and has been a valuable resource.