Danela Agoncillo credits her brother for encouraging her to dream big and achieve great things. The two have a lot in common.

Beyond their family ties, the siblings are both Malcolm X College graduates with associate degrees in nursing. They also share a passion for helping others.

Danela always knew she wanted to be a nurse, so Malcolm X College was a no-brainer. She lives in the Avondale neighborhood, but the drive to the Illinois Medical District didn’t concern her. What did concern Danela was how she was going to pay for her education. As a DACA recipient, she didn’t qualify for a lot of financial aid and scholarships.

However, due to her good grades in high school, Daniela was awarded City Colleges’ Star Scholarship, which meant she was able to complete her nursing degree tuition-free.

“Thankfully, because of the Star Scholarship, I didn’t have to pay for anything. It was just a matter of maintaining my GPA throughout,” she said. “For me, to be able to just focus on school more and take less time on work, it was really beautiful. I’m so grateful for it.”

With the help of the scholarship, Danela was able to secure her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license to work as a patient care technician (PCT) while she was still enrolled at Malcolm X. This allowed her to work with healthcare professionals and interact with patients, preparing her for a career as a nurse while still a student.

From the first day of class to graduation day, Danela says her instructors were helpful and inviting, advising her not only about classwork but about the nursing field in general.

“Even if I make mistakes, they’ll be there to guide me,” she said. “They’ve been so helpful.”

Dr. Catherine Folkner sticks out in Danela’s mind. Danela was in the process of earning her degree during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the stresses of the global crisis mixed with online instruction and in-person nursing clinicals weighed on her. Sometimes, she was just tired. Dr. Folkner always reminded Danela and her classmates to think about why they started this process and why they wanted to become nurses in the first place.

“I’m doing this because I want to help people. Sometimes you forget that,” Danela said.

The desire to make a difference for others kept her going through the tough days—and it will keep her going when she officially becomes a nurse.

Danela is studying for the NCLEX, the national nursing licensure exam, now to become a registered nurse. Once she passes, she dreams of following in her brother’s footsteps again by working alongside him at the University of Chicago.

Danela’s not done learning either. She hopes to get her bachelor’s, master’s, and nurse practitioner’s degrees next. She recognizes the foundation Malcolm X College gave her to reach her future career and education goals.

“I think Malcolm X allows you to step your foot in the door. It’s the stepping stone for the other degrees I want to get,” Danela said.

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