SUCCESS to Northwest Iowa. It was at this time that Lorena realized a big change needed to happen to ensure a fulfilling and stable home life. That first big change happened in 2011, when she completed her GED at Northwest Iowa Community 6 College. Maria Lorena Salas Gomez Class of ’16 Nurse Sioux Center Health For Maria Lorena Salas Gomez, success was simply finishing her degree and getting a job that she loves, although there was nothing “simple” about her path to get there. Lorena had issues beyond what most traditional college students face. Cultural barriers, lack of ability to obtain financial aid, limited access to scholarships, irregular work schedules for her and her husband, and three small children to raise were just a few hurdles that could have kept Lorena from achieving her dream. Now, at the age of 28, Lorena’s life is exactly how she wants it to be. Lorena was born in Mexico, but her family routinely moved between Georgia and Mexico while she was a child. Life was inconsistent as her family was always searching for steady work. Then, at the age of 15, Lorena found out she was pregnant. She and her boyfriend (now husband), Rigo, both quit high school to find work to support their new family. Lorena worked as a cashier at a fast food restaurant in Georgia; Rigo worked as a laborer for a lumber company. Although not ideal, their family made ends meet for a few years. Unfortunately, in 2009 Rigo’s employer downsized and he found himself unemployed. By this time, Lorena, now 18, was pregnant with their second child. Rigo found employment working for a friend at a restaurant in Sioux Center, Iowa, and the family relocated ONE STEP AT A TIME From there, Lorena began taking classes toward a Clerical Accounting diploma at NCC. She completed this milestone in Spring 2012 and gained full-time employment at Premium Iowa Pork in Hospers, Iowa, where she did Accounts Payable and Accounts ...continued on page 15 Receivable. Although she was happy working with a great group of people and having stable employment, Lorena still felt like something was missing in her career. She had always toyed with the idea of being a nurse but thought the level of commitment necessary for her to be successful in her schoolwork was not feasible. She knew nursing was an intense program, and she had many challenges to overcome to consider going back to school again. Her kids were getting older and starting school, and Lorena kept busy with family tasks — mostly because she was the only English-speaking parent in a predominantly English speaking area. Furthermore, she was not eligible for any financial aid and only qualified for a handful of scholarships because she was not a citizen of the United States. On a whim, Lorena applied for a “True Potential” scholarship. This scholarship focuses on creating opportunities for young immigrants who have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) immigration status. When Lorena was informed that she was one of a handful of recipients of the scholarship, she felt like it was a sign that she needed to take this opportunity to obtain a degree in a career for which she truly had a passion.
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