Education Feature: Former student returns to class

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Maria Teresa Juarez was awarded a two-year scholarship at CCC.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Books brought Maria Teresa Juarez back to nursing school.

The 31-year-old dropped out of college when she got pregnant with her first child. In the 10 years that followed she had two more children and worked the night shift at a beef packing plant, all the while promising herself she would go back to school and become a nurse.

“I don’t want to work at a packing house for the rest of my life and wear a hard hat the rest of my life,” she said. “I’m not going in (to nursing school) just for the money, but to play an important role in society.”

Juarez and seven other Clovis Community College students received a scholarship created to give college students a second chance at finishing their education.

The Daniels Foundation gave CCC about $30,000 this year to pay tuition for two years for students who meet the scholarship’s criteria, according to Robert Caffey, CCC’s vice president for institutional effectiveness.

“Bill Daniels, who established the Daniels fund, had a very specific heart for students … who may be have not been the star scholars all along but who are at a point in their life where they want to achieve through education,” he said.

Juarez said medical books she kept when she quit school were a constant reminder of her dreams and of her promise to herself that she would finish college.

“They would just sit there (to remind me) that I need to go back (to school),” she said.

But she said she was concerned about paying for school. She applied for several scholarships, but she thought her grade point average would disqualify her for some.

“It was pretty low,” she said. “I shifted from nursing to teaching. I had taken some history classes, and I just don’t like history, so I quit going, which brought my GPA down.”

Students have to maintain a 2.5 GPA and take at least nine credit hours, said CCC Director of Financial Aid April Chavez. Juarez is taking five nursing classes this semester, her fourth since returning, and maintains a 4.0 GPA.

Juarez attended CCC a semester after graduating from high school to study nursing. She said she wanted to become a nurse after working at a nursing home in Friona her senior year in high school.

“I know I have the heart to do it, and I’m a caring person, and I just like to take care of other people if I’m able to,” she said.

She finally decided to follow her dreams in the 2006 Spring semester.

“I’d like to get my RN (and) I do plan to get my (bachelor’s degree in nursing),” said Juarez, who would be the second of seven children in her family to finish college.

She said going to school has its own challenges, but the future she sees for herself and her family outweighs the future she would have with the grinding work at the packing plant.

“I just look at the end: I just picture myself as a successful nurse,” said Juarez, who expects to graduate in two years.