The Future Nurse
Jennifer is a first-generation immigrant. Her parents came to the U.S. from Mexico in search of more job opportunities and a better education for their children.
Jennifer was a shy kid. She never raised her hand to ask questions in class, she didn’t socialize much, and she was embarrassed to speak Spanish in public. In fact, she didn’t talk about her culture much at all.
In the 7th grade, one of her friends told her about our Chicas Youth Development Program, an after-school program for Latina youth. They both decided to join.
At first, Jennifer was nervous. But as she got used to the sessions and got to know the other girls, she started to warm up.
“[Chicas] taught me to be proud of my culture, my background, and to be proud of being able to speak Spanish.”
Through Chicas, Jennifer got involved with community service projects, volunteering, and field trips to different universities.
“When I was younger I always thought about going to college, but I didn’t know how to get there,” says Jennifer. “My parents came from Mexico and didn’t have a great education, so they couldn’t really help me with my planning, so I had to find my own resources.”
The Journey to College Initiative within the Chicas program is working to tackle this problem. Through career exploration, college field trips, and one-on-one coaching, each Chica finds her path to college.
“When I joined Chicas, they told me that they were going to help me plan for my future, learn about different colleges and scholarships, and how to pay for college,” says Jennifer.
By exploring different career options in Chicas, Jennifer decided that she wants to become a nurse. “If I’m able to get the nursing degree, I want to help out my community.” She wants to support families like hers by becoming a bilingual nurse.
Jennifer will be the first person in her family to go to college. “I’ll be setting an example for my younger brother who is starting high school next year,” says Jennifer.
She’s proud of her parents’ sacrifices for her education. “I’m really proud of them because immigrating to a new place is hard to do — leaving your family, your culture, starting a new life in a place you don’t know,” says Jennifer. “Their sacrifices are really meaningful to me because it’s not something that everyone does. If they didn’t immigrate to the U.S., I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have now.”
As Jennifer prepares to graduate from high school this spring and start at Portland State University in the fall, she reflects on her time in Chicas.
“I’m sad that it’s coming to an end because Chicas is a place I can go to and feel comfortable. It’s a really safe environment for me. Everyone relates with each other."
Jennifer says that confidence was the most important thing that Chicas gave her. Now, she never hesitates to speak up in class.
“[Chicas] was always there for me, they supported me, they cheered for me. They never really give up on you. They always push you to be better, to be stronger, to grow as a person, and to be proud of who you are.”
We congratulate Jennifer, as well as all of our other Chicas graduating this year, and we wish them well in the next chapter of their lives.
The world is yours, Chicas. Adelante.
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