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Graciela Ortega

Tempe, AZ – Graciela Ortega is working hard toward her long-term goal of becoming an Emergency Room Nurse, and eventually a Nurse Practitioner.

Graciela explains, “A Nurse Practitioner can earn a license to run their own practice and it’s basically just one notch under being a doctor. So, as a Nurse Practitioner I would like to open up my own practice and be able to treat patients with acute illnesses.”

Graciela, age 19, was born and raised in Mesa and graduated from Desert Ridge High School. Currently, she’s a Freshman at Arizona State University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, “I really like the fast-paced environment of a hospital emergency room, and I work better under pressure. And, working in an ER is something different everyday and you never know what to expect – it keeps you on your toes.”

Meanwhile, Graciela is among the hundreds of hard working students who have earned scholarships from College Success Arizona. In addition to financial support, the scholarships provide students with specialized mentoring services through a team of talented “Success Advisers.”

Matt Sotelo is Graciela’s adviser:

“Matt has been awesome! I’ve had mentors in the past through other programs and it’s really been done in a more serious kind of way, ‘what do you need? Let’s get it done.’ Whereas, the mentors at College Success Arizona in general have more of a friendly relationship with their scholars, and it’s really more of a trusting bond where you feel comfortable, and you’re not scared to tell them that, ‘hey, I’m struggling in this class or I didn’t do so good over here in this class.’ So, I really trust Matt and he’s been really helpful in everything, not just academics. Just recently, Matt and a friend of his who’s a seasoned nurse took the time to meet with me and another nursing student, to give us some insight about the career, but to also to help us build a community and a network of people who work in nursing.”

Graciela explains that her passion for nursing is driven by personal experience, “My experiences in hospitals that I have had with family members – it’s always the nurse that keeps you going. The doctor obviously has a lot of respect because they worked hard to get where they are, but it’s really the nurses that keep the patients and family going in hard times. And, I’ve really been grateful for the nurses that have kept my family going in hard times, and I want to be able to return that (to others).”

Meanwhile, transitioning from high school to college can be a challenge for some students. Graciela says it’s been a major shift in time management, “I think what I’ve had to get used to the most is having gaps (in time) between my classes, because it’s really easy to take a break here and go there, and I’m learning to take advantage of all of this time that I have throughout the day.  I use my breaks to study and do things that will help me in school. However, in high school it was a lot easier to find help with school work during lunch or study hall, but in college it’s really all up to the student to find the time and seek out the help that you need.”

The nursing program at ASU is known to be competitive and difficult, which Graciela says is a good thing, “In my opinion, I think they do it on purpose because there are a lot of people who want to try nursing and think that it sounds like a lot of fun. But, you have to have the passion for it and the mindset for it, because there is a huge science aspect to it, and you are taking care of a human being who has put their life in your hands. So, the course and the training have to be challenging because we are caring for human lives, and you have to be certain that the people you are putting out in the world to do this job, are nothing less than ready for it.”

Like so many successful college students, Graciela credits her family’s encouragement, “I’m the oldest child in my family and I really want to be a role model for them, because I’m the first one (in my family) to go to college. I’m a first-generation student and my dad immigrated here from Mexico, and he dropped out of school in the sixth grade to work and help support his family. So, my dad has been a real inspiration for me to take advantage of the opportunities that I have in front of me, and that he didn’t have. And, my mom who was born and raised in the Phoenix area, never went to college, however she’s really pushed herself to find out as much as she can about college, so that she could help me get in (to college). We were up late many nights looking at FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), looking at scholarships, and getting all of that done. So, both of my parents have been really important role models in different ways.”

Graciela offers some advice for middle school and high school students considering college, “Really, really, really get involved in your community, because not only is it going to look good on your (college) application, it’s also going to give you a sense of self. The more you get involved and talk to different people and embed yourself in your community, I think you’re going to understand more about the kind of person you are, and more about your passions and interests, and it’s going to help you decide what you want to do, ultimately for the rest of your life. I know that this has helped me to better understand where people are coming from, and better understand different cultures, and open yourself up to everything that the world around you has to offer.”

Since 2005, College Success Arizona has worked with nearly 1,300 students, and provided more than 16 million dollars in scholarships and success services to help increase the college attainment rate in Arizona. If you would like to be part of the mission of providing educational opportunity to high potential students from low income circumstances, your tax-deductible contribution can be made through the “Donate” button on the top of this page.

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