Zoraida A., a native of Mexico, has the distinction of being an alumna of the first graduating class of the high profile Bilingual Nursing Fellowship Program. With funding secured by Congressman Ed Pastor, the program was created to address the critical shortage of Registered Nurses in Arizona, particularly those who are able to communicate thoroughly and effectively with Spanish Speaking patients.
Zoraida explains that the program is a collaborative effort between GateWay Community College and South Mountain College in cooperation with Banner Health. “We studied at a state-of-the-art center for health careers at GateWay which included classrooms and labs modeled after a fully functioning hospital. It was an amazing experience and we received extensive academic support!”
“I was already a student at South Mountain Community College and I was interested in Nursing. I knew that it was highly competitive to get into a nursing program so when I heard about BNFP I knew that I had to give it a try. The day that I found I had been selected into the program I felt joy, relief and honor!”
“All of us received a monthly stipend and it was so helpful. It really took a load off from us and our families. It was enough for me to purchase food and gas and concentrate on my studies.” Zoraida recalls that her fellow nursing students were more like an extended family. “We worked together to keep our eyes on the prize. We knew that each step that we took was bringing us that much closer to reaching our goal -becoming nurses. We worked together to stay organized. We helped each other recharge mentally and emotionally.”
The rigors of nursing school were intense and sometimes left Zoraida and her fellow students feeling overextended. As Zoraida explained, they coped with those stresses together by forming study groups where they also cried, complained and persevered together. “It was a sisterhood that we shared throughout the educational experience and the bilingual component made it even more special.”
While Zoraida was in the full-time program, she and her son lived with her family. “Joshua is nine years old now, but his entire life he has seen me studying and he’s always been so cooperative. Education has just been part of his daily routine and he sees higher education and studying as part of the norm. That’s a great thing to model for your children!”
Zoraida is now a Registered Nurse working at Barrows Neurological Institute at Saint Joseph’s Hospital. “I love nursing. Everyday is different and I enjoy the interaction with the patients! Now living on her own with her son, Zoraida proudly explains “The BNFP gave me a wonderful career, self-sufficiency and independence.”