Focus. Determination. Perseverance. These were the values South Sider Paola Acosta had to focus on to achieve her dream of becoming a nurse.
Paola knew she wanted to be a nurse since high school. She was inspired by how kind and caring the nurses were to her mother while she was in labor. But she doubted herself, wondering, “will I be good enough for that?”
Still, Paola was determined to at least try, so she did. She started at Daley College right after high school but didn’t get accepted into the nursing program there because she didn’t pass the Test of Essential Academic Skills or TEAS exam—a test all aspiring nurses must take. She instead studied to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and received that certificate from Daley.
But she didn’t quit on herself or her dream. Two years ago, Paola took the TEAS again. She studied hard, and she passed.
Paola had read positive things about the nursing program at Malcolm X College, so she began courses there in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic limited how much in-person instruction could be safely conducted, but the classroom knowledge she received and her 12-hour clinicals left her feeling prepared to become a nurse.
Paola said her instructors were readily available to explain the material, and they gave her the confidence to take charge and learn what it means to be a nurse. She learned not only how to provide care to patients but how to be a leader among the healthcare staff.
Paola also gave birth to her first child, worked a part-time job, and juggled schoolwork throughout the program—but she never gave up.
“I knew I was just going to keep going and make the best of it,” Paola said. “I’m also proud because I’m undocumented. I have DACA, so it’s just a very good thing for me.”
With strong organization and time-management skills, and the support of her family, Paola was able to focus on her studies and attend her clinicals. After her graduation, she’s looking forward to spending the summer with her five-month-old son. Then, she’ll begin studying for the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, to become a licensed nurse, and she’ll begin researching residency programs to move toward her dream of becoming a BSN.
Paola plans to keep her focus, determination, and perseverance throughout the remainder of her journey. She’s not just dreaming of an exciting future for herself anymore, but one for her son, too.