Growing up in Poland, I dreamed of becoming an economist or politician to change the economic situation in my society and improve my community and family’s living conditions. Then, we experienced the unfortunate loss of a community member due to a health condition that could have been avoided. The loss caused a great void in my heart that led me to change the course of my future career to healthcare.
After graduating from high school, I was admitted to a university in Poland, where I studied for five years and graduated with a degree in political science. My life plans were altered after graduation, and I moved to the United States.
Being over twenty-five years old and an immigrant in a multicultural society was a complex adjustment and transition. I decided to attend Wilbur Wright College, but my college life was challenging. Affording college tuition and still being able to support my basic needs became burdensome. In my community, the expectations at my age are that I should be employed and successful in the workforce. I felt lonely and out of place, but I pressed on against all odds.
I knew I wanted to help people but did not know how—I was confused by the American education system. I needed to change my situation first before I could help others. That’s when I became acquainted with a Wright College advisor who, even today, stands out as the most crucial person in shaping the course of my life.
Advisor Malgorzata Haptas helped me navigate through college, advised me regarding my classes, established my education/transfer plan, and set up a schedule that would allow me to study and work at the same time. She also introduced me to majors for students pursuing healthcare careers. Upon completion of my associate degree, with her help, I prepared to transfer to the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC).
The desire to change society and my family’s storyline was the driving force behind my success. I completed a bachelor’s degree in public health with a minor in public policy. It’s my goal to create awareness of public health issues and help marginalized communities. I hope to impact many lives.
—Barbara Nowak Yee, Wright College Class of 2018, University of Illinois Chicago Class of 2021