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Marie Aquino

Tucson, AZ – Marie Aquino’s journey thus far: born in the Philippines, raised in Williams, Arizona from the age of 13, graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson and the next stop is the College of Nursing at New York University.

Marie, age 22, explains that she plans to be a public health nurse and see the world, “In my last semester at the U of A I really became interested in global health, and to enrich my college experience, I joined the Global Medical Brigade where I traveled and did volunteer work in Panama. So, I’m hoping to pursue a master’s in Global Health or become a public health nurse, and work for a government health department, or the World Health Organization (WHO). I could work with other countries and help them implement prevention programs, policies and health promotion. I can really go far with this because it’s a very broad field.”

Marie recently graduated from the U of A with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Health and she will begin studying for her master’s degree this fall at New York University’s College of Nursing.  Marie says attending school in New York is another chance to step out of her comfort zone, “I was looking at schools in California and someone advised me that that would be a comfortable choice, and that really trying something new would be taking a leap and going to school in Manhattan.”

Marie’s life so far has been one of change and overcoming challenges. She learned English in the Philippines where it’s part of the grade school curriculum, but she says starting school in Williams was still not an easy transition, “I spoke English but I had a really thick accent which was a bit of a hindrance as far as my social life in school. No one could really understand me, especially in a small town such as Williams. It was very hard to make friends because everyone already had their own group, and here I am, someone from another country just coming in – everything was a big culture shock.”

Marie’s mother set a pretty strong example of pursuing one’s dream, for her children to follow, “Just like a lot of other immigrant stories, my mom wanted a better life for my four brothers and me. She was single-handedly raising us in the Philippines.”

Marie is among the diligent students who have earned a scholarship from College Success Arizona, which provides up to six-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses, “College Success Arizona has been very, very helpful and a big part of my college career. I still remember – it was the day of prom my senior year when I received the letter saying that I had received the scholarship, and it felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I’ve learned how to stretch every dollar and it’s helped me avoid student loans, so I won’t have to be paying off loans for the next twenty-five years of my life.”

College Success Arizona also provides students with specialized mentoring services in the form of Success Advisers, or mentors. Marie says Matt Sotelo, her mentor, has been a great source of support, “Matt is a great adviser. I feel like he’s almost like a big brother to a lot of his students because when you meet with him he really makes you feel comfortable, and he talks to you about what you have been up to and what you have accomplished so far throughout your college career. He just talks to you one-on-one like a friend.”

So far as her biggest college challenge, Marie worked hard to avoid boredom, “My biggest challenge was to not fall into apathy during college – to not get to comfortable. Because when you’re surrounded by the university setting and academia, it’s easy to get comfortable sometimes. So it was always a challenge for me to actively seek out more opportunities, push myself to do a little bit more, to accomplish a little bit more and to polish up my skills and my experiences.”

Marie has some advice for middle and high school students considering college:

“Don’t get too focused on what’s happening now, and always try to think about the bigger picture because the decisions you make now will really have an impact on your life in coming years. Get involved as much as you can and figure out what you really want to do, because it will really save you a lot of anxiety and time once you get to college.”

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