(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Ivette Cruz started her journey at Texas State Technical College as a biology major with the dream of becoming a nurse. And while it’s been a long road for the single mother, t she can finally call herself a licensed vocational nurse.
“Aside from the program being demanding, I had the challenge of also being a present mother,” said the 26-year-old. “But I was blessed because I had a support system like none other.”
The New York native, who moved to the Rio Grande Valley her senior year in high school, graduated from TSTC’s vocational nursing program in December 2018 with a certificate and honors.
She maintained a 3.8 grade-point average while at TSTC making her valedictorian of her graduating nursing class, and earning her a membership in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
“None of this success would have been possible without my family and boyfriend,” she said. “My sister moved in with me to help me with my son. She was pretty much his mother during this time.”
And although she said she missed some special moments with her six-year-old, everything she is doing is a childhood dream come true and a chance to give him a better life.
“When we were kids my sister had her gallbladder surgery I remember how attentive and caring all of the nurses were. They were patient advocates and I loved that. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a nurse.”
So becoming a licensed vocational nurse is not the end for Cruz.
And although she has received numerous job offers from hospitals and clinics, even before graduating, she has made the personal decision to not work in preparation for the Fall Semester when she expects to begin TSTC’s Registered Nursing program.
“This is something I need to do,” she said. “I’m ready, my son is ready and my family is ready for me to finally become a registered nurse.”
Cruz said as a registered nurse there will be more job opportunities for her and better pay.
According the Bureau of Labor Statistics licensed vocational nurses average about $45,000 a year, while registered nurses double that amount.
This makes the return of investment for Cruz, and for others like her, significant and well worth the time and financial investment.
“Many encouraged me to go to a four-year university, but I knew TSTC was the place for me,” she said. “I would be receiving the same, if not better, training and be in line for the same jobs as anyone who had a bachelor’s degree. “Plus, TSTC’s training is top-notch and recognized throughout the medical industry. Why would I want to go anywhere else?”
Cruz did have to take out some student loans, but primarily because working during the program was not an option for her, but she said she is not worried because she knows once she starts working she’ll be able to pay them off without a problem.
“I did what I had to do to support my son, but everything is going to be worth it,” she said. “I have no doubt that this next year will be another challenge, but I’m ready because TSTC is helping me make all of my dreams come true.”
TSTC Vocational Nursing has a 100 percent job placement rate or continuing to registered nursing school, and has a 96.9 percent National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rate.
The program is enrolling now through May 17.
For more information, call 956-364-4762 or visit tstc.edu/programs/nursing.