Maria Moua was used to putting her needs last. As a teen mom she began that habit 14-years ago, and her strong sense of responsibility for others has only grown in the years since. College was one of her goals that had to take a backseat.
In early 2006 Maria and her husband, Tom Xiong, moved with their growing family of three children from Minnesota to Fresno to take care of Tom’s very ill mother. Hmong culture dictated that Tom, as the youngest of his parents’ nine children, must share the greatest responsibility for her care – which meant that Maria was next in line, while her husband worked. That experience inspired Maria to become a Certified Nursing Assistant, soon after her mother-in-law’s passing.
After a few years working in a convalescent home environment, Maria knew she had to reach higher. She enrolled in SJVC’s Surgical Technology program in Fresno, just two weeks after her fourth child was born. The whole family had to make sacrifices for her to be able to complete the intense, 16-month program.
“You just have to tell yourself every day to pick yourself up, put one foot in front of the other and go forward,” says Maria. “If you stop, your sacrifice and everything you put your family through is for nothing.”
The family schedule was built on precision, which included physical and speech therapy appointments for their 10-year old son, Stephan, who has special needs. Maria knows she missed a lot of her family’s life, while she was trying to complete her studies. Her 14-year old daughter, Dawn, filled in for Maria as well as she could by doing the laundry, starting dinner and other household and childcare chores. Everyone’s effort finally came to fruition.
Maria graduated at the top of her class and is now working at Madera Community Hospital in the field she loves and fought so hard to enter. She is spending a lot of time reconnecting with her family and is happy to support her children’s dreams of college. Dawn is already taking college classes, while she is in high school.
“I want her to do something great for herself, says Maria. “It’s her turn now.”
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