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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Delano Medical Assisting student won’t let hardships limit her success

March 28, 2016
Delano medical assisting student Jalyssa Alvarado
Medical Assisting student Jalyssa Alvarado was determined to go to college despite a very difficult adolescence.

The odds were stacked against Jalyssa Alvarado, and statistics predicted she would be a high school dropout with few job opportunities. That is what usually happens when you are born to a mom who has a history of substance abuse and incarceration, you have young siblings who depend on you for their primary care, and you can’t ask your dad for help because you don’t know his name.

That was Jalyssa’s life from the time she was 11 years old until she was 17. Her grandparents, Anita and Buck, had her the first 11 years of her life, but when her grandparents divorced, her mom pulled her back into her life of uncertainty and instability.

Those later years were full of struggle, especially during high school. Jalyssa then broke away and moved in with another extended family member.

She had just started her senior year when she met and fell in love with Alfonso. Within just a few months, they were living together and Jalyssa was pregnant.

“Ever since Alfonso was very young, he was a hard worker,” says Jalyssa. They were sure about each other from the very beginning. “We were young and did everything fast.”

Jalyssa wasn’t sure if she could handle pregnancy and stay in school. But Alfonso’s support and encouragement made it possible. “He took care of me from day one, and made me go to school,” says Jalyssa. “My grades were so much better, and my senior year was one of my best years.”

Daughter Sabrina was born in 2008, then Sienna in 2010 and Jayla in 2012. As their little family grew, so did Jalyssa’s desire to help Alfonso provide for them.

“I could have worked at fast food, but that really wouldn’t give them very much,” says Jalyssa. “I never planned on going to college, but my kids changed that. You can’t do much without a career.”

Jalyssa heard about SJVC’s Medical Assisting program on the new Delano campus. Alfonso had always been supportive of her going back to school, but having three babies in barely five years did not allow Jalyssa much of a break to explore education opportunities.

“We waited so long for me to do anything (about school),” says Jalyssa. “I started SJVC the month after my third daughter started pre-school. I was worried that if I didn’t go then, I might not ever.”

Jalyssa was a natural. “It all came easy for me,” she says. “I had no trouble with anything…maybe a little nervous about giving injections and drawing blood,” she laughs. Maybe it was just time for things to go smoothly for her.

“Jalyssa has faced adversary as a child,” says Carlota Reid, Dean of Student Services/Academic Dean. “However, she has not let her past dictate her future. She is a star and wonderful mentor on campus.”

Balancing school with home life worked pretty well for Jalyssa. She had it all timed out for schedules to match up. Homework with the kids and housework were done in time for dinner to be on the table when Alfonso got home.

She even found time to volunteer as Secretary of the Leadership Club on campus. “We’re always trying to figure out how to help raise money for students in need,” says Jalyssa. “We have fundraisers to help students who need gas to get to school, or just to raise money for more ideas to help make SJVC better.”

But now that she is in her externship, day-to-day campus life is pretty much over. A glimpse of her new life is coming into focus.

Jalyssa is loving the patient intake work she is doing at her medical extern site. “I’m learning something new every day; it’s so easy,” she says. “You meet really nice people, and I’m enjoying it.”

Jalyssa did make one important trip back to campus recently when she was the student speaker at the Delano campus’ ribbon-cutting ceremony. She gave an impassioned message to all those who attended that left many inspired by her personal account of overcoming hardship.

“Jalyssa was the personification of why Delano needed SJVC in its community,” says Patricia Hruby, Delano Campus Director.

An excerpt from Jalyssa’s speech: “Everyone has a past and mine wasn’t the best. And I can’t change that. But one thing I can do is not let misery repeat itself and not let my children grow up not believing in themselves. Because they have someone encouraging them and believing in them, they will have the best education and future. As soon as my youngest started school, I decided to continue my education. Not only to make myself proud but to make them proud of me. Coming to SJVC has been the best decision I have ever made. To anyone who thinks you can’t become something, I can guarantee once you walk in the SJVC doors, you won’t feel that way anymore.”

Jalyssa has no regrets. Well…maybe just one. “I wish I had done this as soon as I got out of high school,” she says. “But my family never talked to me about college, so it wasn’t in my head at all. I will make sure to let my kids know that it is important for them to go to college.”

A mama’s voice is about to be heard loud and clear.

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