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News / Alumni November 27, 2023

First-Generation Student Finds Purpose in Nursing and Teaching

November 27, 2023

First-Generation Student Finds Purpose in Nursing and Teaching

ACC nursing alumna Irene B. is a first-generation Mexican American, and becoming a nurse was her way of embracing the American dream. Keep reading to learn more about her story!

Humble Beginnings

“I didn’t have parents with a college background or any higher education,” Irene recounted, remembering her mother’s stories of growing up with few opportunities. “My mom would say in Spanish, ‘We’re working mules. We sold gum at four or five years old. I worked to get those pennies just so that my mom would be able to buy that pound of dry beans to feed all eight of us.’”

Not only did Irene graduate high school, but she also found the motivation to pursue a nursing education when her mom was struggling with diabetes.

“That also fueled me. I was like, this is scary,” Irene said. “How do I help my mom [when] English is not her first language?”

Nursing School Obstacles

Irene began her nursing journey by entering a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. However, things didn’t go exactly as planned. Her grades dropped halfway through the program, and she was unable to continue. Although many others would have let this be the end of their nursing career, Irene decided it was just a sign to find a different path into the field. That’s where American Career College came in.

She enrolled in ACC’s Vocational Nursing diploma program and found it was much better suited to her aptitudes and skills. She graduated in 2019 from ACC-Ontario and became a licensed vocational nurse (LVN).

 

First-Generation Student Finds Purpose in Nursing and Teaching

 

“I didn’t give up,” she said of the experience. “I went back to ACC, and I had the second highest GPA of my class.”

Empowered To Make a Difference

The nursing foundations that ACC provided didn’t just open the door to vocational nursing, they gave Irene the knowledge she needed to go back and earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She earned her BSN in 2020 and has since returned to her alma mater to teach as a clinical instructor at ACC. She now uses her story to inspire the next generation of students.

“I tell them I failed out and I say, ‘But I want you to look at me. Where am I standing now? I was in your seat and now I am standing in front of you.’ Tell me no and I’ll prove you wrong.”

In March 2024, Irene will graduate with her Master of Science in Nursing from ACC’s sister school, West Coast University. Not only that, but she also plans to become a nurse practitioner and ultimately pursue her doctorate degree in nursing.

“One of my favorite songs is ‘You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me’ by Cher,” Irene said. “I was on my knees, and I got up. That’s what I tell students. I just didn’t give up.”

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