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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Lack of self-confidence almost kept student from discovering her true potential

March 4, 2020

Lack of self-confidence almost kept student from discovering her true potentialHayleen Machuca was told all her young life that she wasn’t that smart. “My teachers didn’t like me because I wasn’t as bright as the other kids,” she remembers. She was able to hide her perceived academic weakness by being mostly home-schooled and managed to complete the required studies by the time she was sixteen years old.

She threw herself into volunteer work, mostly at animal shelters where she felt accepted and appreciated for her efforts. Hayleen also tried a couple of short stints at community colleges where she took General Education classes to keep her career options open.

“I wanted to get my feet wet and see if it was for me or not,” she reflects. Higher education carried a very real possibility for failure. But now 18-years old, it was time to make her move.

Exploring education and training possibilities online one day, San Joaquin Valley College’s Clinical Medical Assisting (CMA) program caught Hayleen’s attention. “I knew nothing about the medical field and went into it blind,” she says.

Hayleen toured the campus and the CMA program’s classroom and lab. She took an entrance exam that, to her surprise, she passed. But could she meet the academic standards and class interaction requirements needed to succeed?

“I have little siblings and wanted to be someone they look up to,” she says. “I want to set an example for them that tells them that if there is something they want, they can go for it. I can be the person they can see made it.”

But could she make it? Could she quieten that internal voice that said, “I don’t belong here, I don’t fit in?”

Whatever academic or teamwork talents she might have had were covered up within the safety and distancing of her home-schooled experience.

Hayleen’s perception of those who work in the medical field is that they are all very interactive, capable and smart. Attributes she felt she did not have. Her plan was simple: Fake it until you make it.  “This is an opportunity because nobody knows who I am, that I’m not outgoing. I could create another personality.”

Her first program module was CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation). “I’m not a very social person but I made myself go in and start helping people (fellow students) with CPR right away,” says Hayleen. “It was kind of crazy. I think I stood out to teachers when they noticed I was helping others instead of just focusing on myself.” She caught even more positive attention when she earned CPR certification her very first week.

The game was on.

“I pretended to be social, pretended to be outgoing, pretended to be a leader, pretended to be smart,” Hayleen reflects. “Everyone thought I was the smartest person, but that was crazy because I knew that wasn’t true.”

Hayleen aced her first big test, answering all 60 terminology questions correctly. “Wow, I really did that!” she remembers.

“When I was younger it was a traumatic experience always being told I couldn’t do anything, by my middle school teachers,” says Hayleen. “It sticks with you, especially when you’ve believed it for so long.” Could all those voices have been so wrong?

Hayleen’s mom, Maria, and her young siblings were proud of her accomplishments.

Her ‘fake’ persona only lasted a couple of months until Hayleen realized the truth of who she was. “I wasn’t really faking it; it was me being me,” she realizes.

“After that I started getting a lot more As and only a few Bs – and only on assignments, never on tests,” says Hayleen.

She came to believe that her new, outgoing personality had been in there all along. “People have been really supportive,” says Hayleen. “Teachers, staff and friends; they’re just a beautiful environment to work with. I’ve never met people as sweet as they are. Instructors are very patient and don’t leave you alone until you understand something. I’ve had some bad ones in the past, but these will help you out with anything you need.”

There were some uncertain moments that even Hayleen’s instructors and classmates couldn’t lessen. “When we were told we were going to do venipuncture (blood draws) my legs started to shake,” she remembers. “I can’t see blood or someone hurt right before my eyes!”

Plus, you’re supposed to be quick about it: in and out. “And, I’m a slow person,” Hayleen laments. “But I got blood on the first draw and into the tube.” Next challenge: surgery videos. “OK, my legs are shaking again.”

Hayleen has a solid school, home, study routine. Although her classes don’t start until 7:30 AM, Monday through Thursday, she is up at 5:30 and on campus by 6:20 AM. “I plan ahead,” she explains. “What if there’s an accident, what-if, what-if?” She is a bit of a worrier. “Right after school I go right to my homework. Then I help mom with cleaning. When it’s mid-terms or finals week, I just stay in my room and study.”

Hayleen maintained a 4.0 GPA and recently earned Medical Assisting certification from the National Center for Competency testing.

“Hayleen is truly one of a kind,” says Brittany Matlock, Career Services Advisor at the Lancaster campus. “She excels in her classwork and it shows in her motivation to succeed. Any employer or instructor is so lucky to have her.”

Her newly discovered abilities and attributes require time and attention. “I’m very hard on myself,” she admits. “I have an image I had to keep up. If I failed, people would look down on me and think, ‘Oh, she’s not as smart as we thought she was’.” Hayleen is slowly realizing that she is a bright, hardworking person who enjoys friendships and has great compassion for others. Her self-image is slowly catching up to her truest self.

She has some strong examples right at home to further emulate. “My dad (Javier) and mom are such hard-workers,” Hayleen offers. “I’m amazed at Dad every single day, and my mom has way more energy than I do sometimes. I believe I have a good mix of both: I have my dad’s work ethic and my mom’s brain,” she says.

When Hayleen started her CMA program’s externship with a medical facility’s chiropractic office, she was thrilled to get a job offer after her first week of work. “Everyone here is super supportive and I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Her career dreams are expanding with each accomplishment. “I feel like this was my calling and something I want to invest in,” says Hayleen. “From here I will get more education and then go for medical school. I see it stretching out over the next few years. I want to become a Physician Assistant before I turn 30.”

There’s nothing fake about those dreams and what Hayleen has within herself to make them a reality.

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