Hortensia always had faith that she would we make it into UIC’s nursing program, but it took her almost 30 years to get there.

Starting at the age of 17, she worked in a factory and at a boutique before she got a job working in housekeeping at a hospital. That’s where she found her calling – she knew she wanted to be a nurse to be able to help comfort and care for people who needed it.

Her first hurdle would be to improve her English language skills, so she signed up for ESL classes through Truman College. Once she mastered that, she moved on to get her GED, which also allowed her to get a promotion at the hospital into an office job. But it still wasn’t where she wanted to be.

Hortensia took some time away from her studies because life got busy – she got married and had two children. When she was ready to go back to school, people told her that it would be too hard, and that she would never be a nurse. But even as a first-generation college student with no one to guide her, Hortensia ignored naysayers and persevered with her studies.

At first, she signed up for one class at a time, but since she was getting As and Bs, her confidence grew and she started taking a fuller course load. She was also part of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. While her home college was Daley, she took classes at different CCC locations: statistics at Kennedy-King College, history at Arturo Velasquez Institute, nutrition at Wright College, and chemistry at Malcolm X College, thinking “it doesn’t matter how long it’s going to take me or where I have to go, I’m going to finish.”

And she did finish – graduating from Daley College with honors, getting her Associate in Science in 2016.

In the fall of 2017, years of hard work paid off – she had been accepted to UIC’s nursing program. She says, “I was at my son’s school when I saw the email telling me I was accepted – I started crying in front of everybody.”

In June 2018, she started her first seminar at UIC, and starts full-time classes in the fall.

“I fought for so long to get there. On my first day, I walked around thinking ‘I can’t believe it – I’m really here!’”

Hortensia wants to inspire others to pursue their dreams, and hopes that she is setting a good example for her son, 17, and her daughter, 14. She expects to earn her BSN in two years, and would like to go on to work with children who have experienced trauma.

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