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ACC Alumni Spotlight: Denise Carvajal


Denise Carvajal knew she couldn't provide the life she wanted for her family without more training, so — at age 32 — she did something she hadn't done in years.

She went back to school.

"I knew I had to start a career. I didn't just want a job anymore. I wanted a career," Carvajal said. "I wanted something where I could look back and see I accomplished something. And also for my daughters to see that if I can do it, they can do it. It's never too late to go back to school."

Carvajal graduated from American Career College-Ontario in 2014 after completing the medical assisting program. After working in a medical office for three years, she recently returned to her home campus to become a career services specialist where she helps ACC students with their externships.

"Being a part of the company, it means a lot to me," she said. "I love working here. I love the people I work with, every department, every campus. It's like a family and that's one thing that I didn't find anywhere else."


What drew you to a job in health care?

I love helping people. I wanted to kind of get my feet wet and do something small and see where it went from there. I tried the medical assisting program — loved it. I ended up working with an endocrinologist doctor learning about diabetes, which half of my family has, and I just went from there. I got hired off of extern so I was out in the field for three years as a medical assistant and I loved it.

Did you ever think about leaving the program?

There were times where I had personal reasons and I just felt like giving up, and every time I would come to school the staff and faculty would be like, "No. You got this, you can do this. Just keep pushing, keep pushing." So just knowing that people at ACC are here to help us, that's what kept me going. I was also a federal work-student so I worked for groups like Career Services, the Student Resource Center. Miss Gwen, she was amazing and just pushed me.

Why did you choose to work at ACC?

My externship coordinator reached out to me. I was kind of running the office where I was working at, so I would take a lot of her students and she reached out to me saying "Look, there's an opportunity for you. Why don't you just apply?" It sounded OK and so when I came back to work here, I loved it because I actually got to engage more with students and actually got to kind of teach them a little bit more on what to expect out in the field. I didn't expect everything that was thrown at me once I started my externship so I wanted to come back and tell the students, "Look, it's not what you expect. This is what you should do, how you should go out. Take the bull by the horns and just get out there and learn. Don't be shy and get that experience."

Do you have any advice for new students?

Never give up. The medical field can be tough because you get a lot of doctors that are sometimes rude, that are in a hurry but at the end of the day it's all about the patient so never give up. That's one thing I learned. I've had some days where I wanted to give up and thought maybe this is not for me. It would get overwhelming at times and I just would be like, "No. People need me more than me just giving up."

If you could go back to that first day at school, what would you tell yourself then?

"You did this being scared and now I can do anything. Now I have no fear in what I can do." That's what I would tell myself.

ACC cannot guarantee employment. Programs vary by campus. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student. For graduation rates, median debt of graduates completing this program and other important information, visit

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