Mother, activist and Rankin Foundation Scholar Bridget Saffold carries on her family’s
legacy of community advocacy
“I knew I wanted to be a nurse. I knew I wanted to go into healthcare, but I didn’t know I could.
As a young mom, you think you can’t do something. But I decided, I have to do it. It was the
hardest time in my life, but I stuck to it. I wanted it so bad.” – Bridget Saffold
In 1995, Bridget Saffold had just graduated high school. She was a young single mother to her
eldest son at the time, and within a few years, she got married and went on to have three more
children. By the time her children were between the ages of three and ten, Bridget was divorced
and starting over. She spent this time leaning into her community and empowering herself with
Bridget initially sought to complete her associate’s degree, but instead earned a license in
practical nursing (LPN) from Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, Iowa, in 2007. She
ventured into the world of nursing she’d always felt drawn to and got right to work. Her LPN
allowed her to find work with a steady income and consistent schedule that she genuinely
enjoyed. This allowed her to raise her children too.
After receiving an LPN, Bridget went on to work toward her associate’s degree. The early days
of her education journey were challenging for Bridget. Money was tight, and so was time and
energy. She said that for much of the time that she was managing school, family and work, her
family went without. Still, she remembers those times fondly. Her family spent more time with
each other outside of their home, because it had no cable TV and sometimes no electricity. The
special memories created during the time she worked to secure her family’s future stay close to
her heart, and were critical to shaping the academic trajectory of future generations. She said her
family learned the value of sticking to what they set their minds to, no matter how hard it was.
And stick to it she did. After earning her associate’s degree, Bridget went on to work as a nurse.
Right away, she noticed discrepancies in care.
“When you live within the community of the people you serve, you are a part of their life at work
and outside of work,” said Bridget. “I noticed people putting their personal biases in front of
doing the work sometimes.”
She was surprised to find the patients she saw at work had so many more questions when they
ran into her at the store, rather than at the doctor’s office. She noticed too that her colleagues
would withhold information on care options based on socio-economic and racially-motivated
assumptions. The people in her world were going to the doctor and not receiving positive health
Because she understood that there was a problem in the care process, Bridget organized her own
nonprofit, Cedar Valley Focus on Diabetes. Determined to improve health outcomes in Iowa,
Bridget worked with the Governor’s office to create the nonprofit in 2015. She connected with
companies and doctors to provide a clinically-safe space for folks marginalized by the healthcare
system. Her community received more care at this clinic in a shorter amount of time, allowing
them to go back to the doctor and have informed, productive conversations.
By 2016, at age 40, Bridget was back in school working towards her bachelor’s degree. Bridget
was still balancing her career with school and family responsibilities. A proud Rankin
Foundation Scholar, Bridget said she deeply benefitted from the flexibility of the unrestricted
Jeannette Rankin Foundation Scholar Grant.
“Looking at the student as a whole is so important,” she remarked. “Especially for non-
traditional students, there’s more to life than just being on campus.”
For Bridget, that sometimes meant that she needed food so she could focus on school work.
Other times, she used the unrestricted Scholar Grant to gas up her car or purchase books she’d
otherwise have spent the semester managing without.
Whether she was in the classroom, in the clinic or with her children, Bridget has spent her life
bridging information gaps and empowering her own community from the inside out. She said
that if she could go back to 1995, she wouldn’t be too surprised at the victories of her advocacy
work. Bridget has always been driven by service and love for her community, and it’s a family
tradition she’s proud to carry on.
Her father operated a basketball-focused community organization and throughout his life, served
as a champion for minority youth. He pushed for state jobs to hire from within their community,
and ensured that folks knew about job openings. He was Bridget’s first model for humble service
and leadership, and Bridget is proud to honor his legacy in her own way today.
“My dad goes, ‘People need to notice and just do it. No matter how many people come, just do
it,’” said Bridget. “He understood that even if they don’t always get what they need, that doesn’t
mean you can’t take your knowledge and whatever skills you have. Everybody can do this same
thing to help build up the community around them.”