Phoenix, AZ – Maria Arteaga’s educational pursuit and career ambition is a direct result of being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was 11 years old.
Maria explains, “So pretty much, I’ve been with the same doctor for the past eight years now, and just seeing her and working with the other nurses, I’ve always been interested in what her field consists of. I’ve also volunteered at diabetes walks and heart association walks, and through those hands-on experiences I came to the conclusion that I want to be an endocrinology nurse practitioner, because I enjoy being around children.”
Maria, age 19, was born in Fresno, California but raised in Buckeye, Arizona since the age of 11. She graduated from Youngker High School and is currently attending Estrella Mountain Community College. She plans to transfer to Northern Arizona University and pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and then go on to become a Nurse Practitioner.
Maria is living with Type 1 Diabetes, the most severe form of the disease that generally requires daily insulin injections. She recalls being diagnosed, “I remember that it was during the summer and I got diagnosed with diabetes. I pretty much spent that whole summer at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and just realized that the whole point of being in the hospital for two months, was that diabetes was changing my whole lifestyle. It was also a struggle because I also had hypothyroid and a heart murmur, so the diabetes came with side effects. It’s been a struggle, but it ultimately led to my career decision.”
Some people would likely be taken down emotionally and psychology by diabetes.
Not Maria, she’s a fighter:
“Yes, absolutely. I continue to be motivated because I am accepting of what I have. Even though I’ve tried to not make it an issue, I try to make it a characteristic of who I am, and how it helped me develop into the person that I am now. I am trying to be a strong and confident person, no matter what illness I may have, or whatever the future may bring,
Meanwhile, Maria is among the hundreds of students who are part of the EXCEL program, which is a student success program developed in collaboration with the Helios Education Foundation at both Estrella Mountain and Glendale Community Colleges. The program also works in partnership with College Success Arizona.
Maria says the program provides a lot of resources for students, “Being in EXCEL – they help you by providing an academic adviser, and they also work with students to help with which courses to take as it relates to the student’s career path. The program also provides family advocacy workshops, and we recently held a job fair which can help students get more information about which career path they may be interested in, or which job they may be interested having in the future.”
Maria is among the many students who benefit from having a “Success Adviser” provided by College Success Arizona. Matt Sotelo is Maria’s Success Adviser, “Matt was a great adviser, he pretty much told me that I was on track with my courses and stuff at college. The best advice that he’s given to me and that I still hold on to now, is that if I don’t have to work, I should make my school (studies) my priority, and make that my job. Having the opportunity to meet with Matt has helped me to expand my own knowledge.”
Maria also works as a peer mentor with the EXCEL program, “Being an EXCEL peer mentor means that I have my own set of students, who I help to advise. Currently I have more than two dozen students that I get to focus on. I get to know the students and they tell me what interests they have. Perhaps they are looking for internships or volunteer opportunities, or if they just want to really be focused on school, I help them to adjust their schedules to that. I have really enjoyed being a peer mentor because I also learn from my students.”
Maria has some advice for middle and high school students considering college, “What I say to my students is, ‘Sacrifice now and enjoy the future for an eternity.’ Each student has their own obstacles to face, and to overcome them you have to take charge of the moment you are given now, to be satisfied with the end.”