Child custody struggle leads mother of three to Clinical Medical Assistant career
Sometimes the breakup of a marriage can take a positive direction that opens the door to a lifelong ambition. That is what happened when Alina Rodriguez had to prove to the court that she could provide for her three young children on her own.
“When I was little, my dream was to be a Registered Nurse,” says the 26-year old. “When I finally got out of a very controlling six-year relationship, I went full-force and did what I’d always wanted to do.” Career education and training would demonstrate her effort toward a future of financial stability.
But before Alina could be a student, she and her children, Rose (5), Jason (4) and Thomas (1) had to escape her abusive circumstances. “My brother Tito and Lily (sister-in-law) were the first to bring me into their home and away from my domestic violence situation. They really didn’t want anybody there, but they showed me love and support that I needed right then.”
While she and her husband struggled over issues in court, their children were placed with her mom and dad (Theresa and Steve). Alina moved in with her sister, Jasmina, while she attended court-mandated domestic violence therapy, individual counseling, and parenting classes to earn the court’s approval to raise her children on her own.
“I had a lot of support when I left my husband and we were in court,” says Alina, who did whatever was needed to have her children returned to her. “My kids are my life.”
Alina had to look at their future and how they could survive on their own. She told her mom of her dream of a medical career. “She told me, ‘Well, let’s look at schools!’,” says Alina. San Joaquin Valley College was in the hi-desert area of Hesperia, just a 15-minute drive from home. “I’d never heard of SJVC, but I did the tour and it appealed to me immediately.” She narrowed her interest to the Clinical Medical Assisting (CMA) program.
It felt right. “The thing that got me was the hands-on training,” says Alina. “I actually saw students doing venipuncture, doing CPR on a ‘baby’ mannequin. There were a lot of students, probably about 20-25. They were all in uniform; got to wear scrubs and were all so professional. I knew right away that it was the right move.”
She had one hesitation. “My main concern was money. But I got loans with delayed payback and with the program that could be completed in as few as 9 months I knew I’d be finished (and earning a salary) in no time.” She enrolled for the next CMA program’s start date a month away.
Alina was doing everything she could to secure a successful future for her little family.
“When I first started (class), I knew I was going to get the training I needed, and I did,” she remembers. “It was amazing to see how they prepare you; and to see the high rate of success of the kids finishing the program and already going into work. I made a few friends there, but I was there to be professional and do what I needed to do to get out there in the field.”
It was hard for Alina to be without her children during this important time in her life. “I was going to see my kids at night, put them to bed then go home to my sister’s,” says Alina. It seemed like much longer than three months that they lived apart. “God is Number One and, if it wasn’t for Him, I don’t know what would have happened.”
The court awarded Alina full custody of her children and they were allowed to be together full-time once again.
Finally, Alina could relax into a more familiar routine of parenting and give greater focus to her education goals. “I would miss some days because of court, but when I came to class, I gave it 100% attention. I wasn’t letting nothing take me down. And when we were doing labs, Miss Goodlet (faculty) would show us on a person how to give a shot. I would always be like, ‘Oh, give it to me. I want you to do it on me because it is a good learning experience for me.’”
Alina volunteered a lot. “When they took blood I was, ‘OK, here, go for it!’ I’d rather experience it, myself, so I know what to tell patients when they ask if it hurts.”
It was not easy to balance school and all the responsibilities of being a single mom.
“I had them (children) on my mind a lot and I was so stressed out with so much on my plate,” she says. Jason, who is autistic, especially needed his mom. “He was non-verbal for a while but is talking more now. Loud noises are hard for him and he will retreat to his bedroom, his safe place.”
She had to have the strength to give them enough in those moments while she worked to secure their future. Sometimes doubt slipped in, especially just before a major exam. “I had finals and thought I was probably going to fail this, but I passed with an A.” She was too used to underestimating her competence.
“While in school Alina went through an unhealthy separation and she almost lost her kids,” says Daniela Cosio, Career Services Advisor. “She maintained a 4.0 GPA while being a single mom and doing everything in her power to keep her kids safe.”
Alina savored those moments of accomplishment.
Every student was given a pin for each module they successfully passed. Those pins were important milestones for Alina. “Every month I’d say, ‘OK, I got this pin, I can do it another month’. That’s what kept me pushing; and getting Academic Excellence kept me pushing.”
Alina’s family support team was always at the ready.
“Mom was always my best friend. She was more religious and close to God and would pray with me. My Dad – who potty trained me, taught me how to drive and was my softball coach – would tell me, ‘You’re a Ruiz; we’re not quitters; you got this.’ “I think everybody knows I’m his favorite,” she laughs.
Her Dad was right. She would not quit. “I wanted to do this for years, and didn’t,” says Alina. “I just put on my Big Girl panties and did it. I knew this would be a long-term job that I can grow with. I can pursue my degree as a Registered Nurse and then one day become a doctor. It will be perfect for me to support my kids and give them what they need.”
She has begun that path. Alina was offered a Medical Assistant position at her student extern site, a senior care residential facility, where she provides medical services and treatments to elderly patients. “I went straight from being an extern to employee,” says Alina. “I take vitals, make doctor appointments, dispense medications and make rounds to check on new clients (residents).”
“My mom used to be a LVN, taking care of the elderly,” says Alina. “We used to do a whole bunch of fun activities, like cake walks. I used to say to my mom that she took care of us and then would go out there and take care of other people’s family members. And now that’s what I want to do. Take care of people.”
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.