Armed with perseverance, mother of two starts over to pursue dream career

04.24.2014 | By Jeannie Peng-Armao

PASADENA, Texas – For many, the choice of working in health care starts with a personal experience.

When Alejandra Lopez's father died of pancreatic cancer three years ago, it was then that the mother of two realized how she wanted to do more to help others through life's most difficult times. 

"At the time, we had hospice care come into our home, and I just felt that it was my calling to become a nurse," said Lopez, who had spent the last 10 years working in medical assisting. "I felt compelled to care for other patients who are going through similar experiences."

With a clear goal in mind, Lopez set out to change her career. After gathering advice from friends and researching colleges in the Houston area, Lopez chose San Jacinto College. 

"I decided on San Jacinto College because the students come out of here professional nurses," said Lopez. "They are known for their ethics and professionalism."

However, with no prior college experience other than technical training for medical assisting, Lopez's COMPASS scores placed her first in college prep math. Instead of considering this as a discouragement, Lopez embraced it as a step toward preparing for the competitive nursing program. 

"My college prep math course taught me how to basically remember things that I had not used in years," said Lopez. "I was able to get through it perfectly fine and apply the concepts to my college level math course, where I made an A."

She, like all incoming freshmen, also completed a San Jacinto College student success (GUST) course, designed to teach students how to navigate college, research, and how to form support systems and networks. The College developed the course to improve retention rates. 

"My GUST course has been the most beneficial class to date," said Lopez. "It was a phenomenal course that gave me a lot of tips for college, how to enjoy my school, and how to set and accomplish my goals. It is extremely important for students who want to come back to school."

Carolyn Poole, GUST coordinator and department chair of college preparatory, said Lopez "took everything she learned in the student success course to heart."

"Ally really stands out to me because she was extremely nervous coming back to school after being out for a while," said Poole. "It warms my heart to know that she is 'on course' to reach her dream and to make a better life for her family."

Lopez was accepted into the San Jacinto College nursing program with a 4.0 GPA, and even though she no longer needs to take a student success course, she carries over the lessons learned.

"I still implement everything that Ms. Poole taught me now," said Lopez. "Everything has to be about the goals you want for yourself. My perseverance is what got me here into the nursing program."

Once Lopez completes her program at San Jacinto College, she will transfer to a university for a bachelor's degree in nursing. She hopes to one day work as a nurse practitioner.

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150 or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.