Ventura College Foundation Receives Nearly $185,000 Gift From Aurora Loss Estate To Support Ventura College Nursing Department And Its Students

Aurora Loss with Vanessa Apodaca scholarship winner

Ventura College Foundation, which provides financial support to students and programs of Ventura College, received $184,105 from the estate of long-time Ventura College supporter Aurora Loss who passed away in April 2020 at age 102. Loss has a 20-year history of giving to Ventura College Foundation to fund scholarships for Ventura College nursing students.

Loss' donation is divided equally with $92,052 designated for the establishment of the Aurora Loss Scholarship Fund endowment and $92,052 to the college's nursing department for the purchase of medical training equipment. The scholarships will be managed and awarded through the Ventura College Foundation.

Loss grew up on a farm in a mining town in Montana. An independent and career-driven woman, she attended Billings Business College and soon was employed in the engineering industry and as a government administrator during WWII.

Her career included working at the Pentagon. While in Washington D.C., she became ill and was hospitalized. Doctors minimalized her symptoms but she received the support of a nurse who advocated for her. Loss believed the nurse helped save her life. She never forgot the nurse's kindness. When Loss eventually relocated to California, she found an opportunity to reciprocate by supporting Ventura College's nursing students with scholarships and program support.

Dr. Sandra Melton, director of the college's School of Nursing & Allied Health, had the opportunity to have lunch with Loss on several occasions and to take her on a tour of the nursing school. "I tell my students that it only takes one nurse to make a difference in a patient's life--and you can be that one. Because of the compassion showed to Aurora so many years ago, she was motivated to make a difference too."

Currently, 151 students are enrolled in the Ventura College two-year nursing program. The program normally enrolls up to 200 students, but the pandemic temporarily limited the number of enrollments. The students use life-like manikins (also known as patient simulators) in the learning process. These manikins are computer-controlled and simulate breathing, life-like sounds, heartbeats, pulse, and other bodily functions. As a tribute to Loss’ generosity, one of the manikins is being named, “Auntie LaLa” in her memory.

"The manikins allow students to use their critical thinking skills to perform patient assessments and administer patient interventions in a safe environment," says Melton. "They can make mistakes without endangering a patient. Students can practice responding to anaphylaxis and other life-threatening situations."

Melton says her department currently uses three high-fidelity adult, pediatric, and birthing simulators and is considering adding a more advanced wireless child simulator with Loss' donation. The department will also purchase additional medical equipment with the funds. "It's important that students have access to practice with the same equipment that they will use in local hospitals," she says. "We're always updating our program with the latest technology."

The nursing program is one of the most expensive on campus. Students must purchase textbooks, uniforms and medical supplies such as stethoscopes, and pay for drug testing, CPR certification, and licensing exams. "Scholarships help offset some of these costs," says Anne Paul King, Ventura College Foundation executive director. "Aurora attended our annual scholarship award event until she was 100 years old. She thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking with scholarship recipients. She was so happy to see firsthand how her scholarships were making a difference."

The Ventura College nursing program enjoys a 100 percent hiring rate for those graduates seeking employment with the majority of graduating students accepting positions locally. "The generous donations from Aurora Loss will support the degree completion of our nursing students," says Ventura College President Kim Hoffmans who is also a registered nurse. "We are on the cusp of a more widespread shortage in California as current nurses retire. It's gratifying to know that Ventura College is producing the nurses we need now and for the future."