“Is my English good enough to go back to school?”

“Will my children be okay while I’m in class?”

“Will I be able to afford the tuition fees on top of the bills I am already paying?”

The questions—and the doubts—ran through my mind. It was daunting going back to school after being away for a decade or so. I am not that young, fresh out of high school student anymore. I have three children who are depending on me. I am an immigrant who is still trying to perfect my English.

But being the second oldest of seven children, I learned to be “responsible” at a young age, especially in the Filipino culture that I grew up around. The older child tends to help the parents take care of our younger siblings.

So, when I immigrated to the U.S. at age 23, I took on that caretaking role right away and started my own family. Before I knew it, I had been a stay at home mom for 11 years.

I was always planning to go back to school eventually—I just needed to save up first. I started working as a pre-school teacher, but my ultimate goal was to become a nurse. Finally, when my youngest child was in school full time, I felt confident that I could head back to the classroom, too. Friends at the church I was attending advised me that Malcolm X College was a great option, so I started googling: What is Malcolm X College? What is City Colleges of Chicago? I had no idea there was a whole system where I could take classes.

I decided to get my prerequisites done at Truman College, which was the closest campus to my home on the North Side of Chicago. The first time I stepped on campus, I could feel that the staff there was willing to help me out. The same thing happened when I started taking courses at Malcolm X as part of the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program. Seeing so many students who were around my age—and even older—made me feel comfortable attending class.

And then there was the support. The scholarships. The tutoring. The discounted Ventra pass. The food pantry. The free counseling. The loaner laptops when the pandemic happened and we went remote. And the ease of accessing almost everything via Zoom.

Earning my degree wasn’t a walk in the park—the ADN program is no joke. But my professors were so knowledgeable and supportive. They empathized with us, especially with all that we were managing during the pandemic. Dr. Christina Lattner actually inspired me to become a professor for nursing students, which was not my original plan. I see the passion of teaching in her—I can feel that she really cares for her students. It struck my heart when she told us, “tell me what I can do to help you.”

I am confident that Malcolm X’s ADN program has prepared me to become a nurse. The curriculum has made me feel ready to take the NCLEX exam, our official licensing test. But beyond that, the program has taught me how to deliver patient-centered care, especially in this trying time. Our city needs compassionate nurses, and I’m ready to heed that call.

For those who are contemplating going to City Colleges or going back to school after a long hiatus, go for it! CCC made it possible for me to attend and finish college while being a mom, a wife, and an immigrant. The only thing that will hinder us is if we listen to that tiny voice, discouraging us to go back, telling us that we are not good enough.

We are good enough.

Nothing is impossible if we put our hearts into something we really want. It will not be a walk in a park, but time flies. Without realizing it, you’ll be up on that stage receiving your diploma, just like I did.

—Ivy Rose Lomahan, Malcolm X College Class of 2022

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