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Phoenix Forward

Meet Dr. Kimberly Horton

Dr. Kimberly Horton

University of Phoenix graduate provides inspiration to students

Few people can rival the ongoing accomplishments of Dr. Kimberly Horton: Chief nursing executive, writer, founder of a nonprofit, professional singer, and most recently, a University of Phoenix graduate featured in the school's national advertising campaign.

“When you have a passion for something, you figure out how to do it,” says Horton, 50, who earned her Doctor of Health Administration degree from University of Phoenix in 2008.

From adversity to achievement

Horton is modest, but her road to success was not easy.  She grew up in Compton, Calif., a rough area south of Los Angeles. She had two children by age 18, and was divorced shortly before her 19th birthday.

She says the anger she felt — for being ostracized and scorned by others for becoming a young mother — only motivated her. So in addition to raising her children, she worked two jobs and paid her way through nursing school with minimal loans, earning her master’s degree in nursing from California State University, Fresno. In 2004, she enrolled in University of Phoenix aiming to earn her doctorate.

“It was actually the best academic experience I’ve had,” she says. “It was grueling and I was glad of that because I didn’t want to get a degree in name only.”

When you have a passion for something, you figure out how to do it.

Horton’s career is filled with achievements. From 2005 to 2010, she worked as a vice president and chief nursing officer for Mercy Hospital of Bakersfield, where she oversaw all nursing services at two acute care hospitals and two outpatient clinics. In addition, Horton founded a county chapter for the Association of California Nurse Leaders and helped launch an adult sickle-cell program in Fresno (now a national model for adult treatment centers). 

She is now the chief nursing executive for the Alameda County Medical Center in Oakland, Calif., where she helps manage an operations budget of about $250 million, oversees 1,200 employees and runs the nursing services for the entire Alameda County system.

Journey to a Dream

In 2008, Horton founded the Journey to a Dream Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides financial support and mentoring for teen parents who desire to pursue a vocational degree.

“Once I got to the point where I was self-sufficient, I wanted to do what I could to help teen moms,” she says. “So when I finished my doctorate I started Journey to a Dream so I could give scholarships to teen parents with custody of their children. The program has to be vocation-based so they can go to work when they are done.”

So far, the foundation has awarded five annual scholarships, largely due to donations and Horton’s other passion: music. A contemporary gospel singer, Horton has a record contract  and uses the net proceeds from her CD and concert sales to help fund the scholarships.

Horton has received numerous letters from single parents she has inspired. “If my trials can give someone else hope, then that is what I think about more than anything else,” Horton says. “I think about that more than my personal accolades.”

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