After graduating from high school, all Karessa Meza wanted to do was travel and focus on her art.
So for a few years, she worked at being a successful tattoo artist and seeing as much of the world as time and money would allow. But then a funny thing happened to Meza while traveling through Europe -- she decided she wanted to go back to school.
"I wanted an education and I felt like I lacked that," she said. "I just felt like I had all the little pieces in my life that I felt fulfilled with, but there was just that one little spot -- education -- that's what I needed."
Meza said she had always been interested in healthcare, but it wasn't until her grandmother's death that she realized exactly what she wanted to do.
"The reason why I want to be a surgical technologist is to save someone's life, to extend someone's life to allow a family member to see their loved one extra time. That's what happened with my grandma," Meza said. "She passed away but the surgical team was incredible and they allowed me an hour or two of extra time with my grandma before she passed and that was just ... it's amazing and I wanted to be part of that team."
After deciding on what she was going to do, Meza needed to find out where she was going to go to school. Meza said she shopped around at other schools but knew as soon as walked through the doors of American Career College-Ontario, she had found her school.
"It's an incredible program to begin with," she said. "Do your research, but if you're fascinated with surgery definitely go for it. It's just such a good time here. Yes, we have times where we're all messing around but it's strict, it's serious and the class is very respectful. I just I love it here."
Jumping right back into ACC's accelerated program was a little rough at first for Meza, but with a lot of study and perseverance, she's now at the top of her class and was recently awarded a scholarship by the Foundation of Surgical Technology.
The consummate teammate, Meza credits her success to her teachers, her classmates and her grandmother, who continues to inspire her to work harder every day.
"When my grandma passed, that just totally told me, 'This is what I'm gonna do and I'm gonna be successful at it,' and be the greatest that I can be," Meza said.
First of all the layout, the whole building itself is incredible. Then, from admissions to financial aid, they were on it. They were honest. They were very helpful and so I just decided -- this is the school. And now, meeting the faculty, my professors -- they're incredible. And they're part of the reason why I'm excited. I get up and go to school because they make it so much more fun.
When you get back to studying and learning how to read thick textbooks -- that was a little tough, but with my peers and the teachers just being so personable and helping me. I would go to study sessions and I would ask for study tips with my teachers. When I first started, I was getting like C's and B's. That's when I kind of elevated my GPA and it was definitely due to the help of the professors here.
No, I'm not a quitter to begin with. I was never raised that way, but at first, I was just a little stressed with B's. I know it sounds horrible but with C's and B’s, I was like, "This is tough. I really need to raise up my grades," but I never wanted to quit, for sure. There is no way.
I learn with flashcards. I record myself, so instead of listening to music in the car, it's myself reading my notes. And I rewrite my notes. I have study groups and I come to tutoring -- even though sometimes I feel like I don't need tutoring. It's always best just to recap and refresh and learn certain things that the teachers didn't tell you in class. They can kind of mention little hints and tips sometimes outside of class. It's usually probably four to five hours a day and then I divide it between the three classes that I'm in. I have a calendar and I set study times. It's pretty much my whole life but that's for anyone in the medical field. If you're gonna be in school, it's your life. You have to drop a lot of certain things.
Probably socializing with friends. But that's fine because if they're your true friend, then they'll understand. And they'll be there when it's all said and done. They better be there at my graduation.
Probably having the stress that you're basically in charge of the surgery. You're like the foundation of the surgery. You're the one that gets the whole surgical team gathered. You prep everything. You're the start. You're the first person in and that makes me feel like, "Oh, that's pretty cool." And then saving someone's life, because you brought out those tools, like "Oh yeah, that Adson with teeth? Yeah, I brought that out. I cleaned it." I mean like it's just stuff like that like I was part of it and I'm the one passing it to the surgeon. It's definitely being with the team.
You have such a short time and that's why you need to live it and be a better version of yourself every day. Being here, that's how I feel every day in class but, yeah, that's my inspiration, being the best.
Do your research first. Understand this is hard work. This is hard work. These are people's lives that we're dealing with and you have to be passionate about it because if you're not passionate and you're not excited about it then it's not going to work. It just won't.
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.
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