By Pedro Aguilar
NU Scholar Cohort January 2020, Bachelor of Science, Nursing – Los Angeles Region, CA.
My story can be told from many perspectives. I am a community college graduate who transferred to National University after having a change of heart. While I had wanted to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work, my work in mental health led me to pursue a degree as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. The rightness of this decision came home for me when Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, asked nursing students and other healthcare professionals to join in the fight against Covid-19. I can still remember Newsom saying “if you are a nursing school student, we need you” as he pleaded for Californians to join the California Health Corps.
I am a first-generation college graduate, single parent, English Language Learner, and adult learner. When I say adult learner, I really mean that I took my education seriously only once I became an adult. While attending community college I held many jobs: grocery clerk, crane and forklift operator, warehouse worker, cook, and painter. I was not sure what I really wanted to become in life, especially because education was not fostered where I grew up. Some of my peers went into real-estate, while others became working professionals like their parents. I, on the other hand, was just trying to find myself and generate a plan for my future.
One day during sociology class my instructor shared her experience working with troubled youth. I clearly remember her saying, “One day they love you, another day they are trying to hurt you, but working with them is so rewarding.” What she said inspired me, so after class I asked if she would write me a letter of recommendation. Soon after I became a youth counselor and began my career in social services. This experience taught me that you can find inspiration and ideas from the most unlikely places or comments made by the people around you.
“Show others the way” were a few of the words written on my yearbook by my English high school professor, Mrs. Olivas. I did not follow the traditional pathway of going to school, getting a good job or career, getting married, having a family, and living happily ever after. My life took some sharp turns along the way – but after running a few stop signs, getting a few speeding tickets, and repairing a flat tire or two, it eventually brought me where I am today. If you have a familiar story, keep going, and remember that you are not just succeeding for yourself, but that you are showing others the way.
If I had given up when I was in high school, it would have been expected because children that come from broken homes and who are English learners have a higher rate of dropping out.
If I had given up when I was in community college, it would have been expected of me because adults who don’t have a strong support system and who must work through their education have a lower chance of completing a two-year degree.
If I had given up after graduating community college it would have been expected of me because I was already a part-time parent and full time mental health professional, and had taken a few years off from school. When I attempted to go back, I was told that if I wanted to switch my major, I had to wait in the back of the line because I had lost priority registration. My counselor even told me, “We get that a lot, people are afraid to finish.” I explained to her that she was wrong – I was not afraid to finish, I just knew what I wanted to do.
If I had given up, I would have had to sit down one day and explain to my daughter how I found a million excuses to give up along the way. The thought that she would see a defeated man as opposed to a role model is what keeps me in the fight. I would rather keep my dreams alive and be the light for other dreamers that have lost sight in their path to success. Don’t ever give up! Si se puede!