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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Medical Assistant is first in family to reach for higher education

August 11, 2020

No one in Alejandra Espinoza’s family had ever gone to college, or even finished high school. She was the first to reach higher, to decide a better future was only possible through education. But it would not come without sacrifice and the love and support of family.

Alejandra Espinoza SJVC student with her family standing in front of the beachAlejandra’s family, Jordan (10), Christopher (3) and Rose (2) and her boyfriend, Christopher, was behind her all the way. She knew exactly what field interested her most. “Since my parents are diabetic and my older brother has Downs Syndrome, I was always going to the doctor with them,” says Alejandra. She acted as interpreter because her parents only spoke Spanish. She also provided hands-on help.

“My parents are taking insulin and I administered the shots.” She discovered an interest in performing medical treatments. “I actually liked it.”

Alejandra could see herself in the medical field helping others as she was helping those closest to her. Medical Assisting seemed a natural career choice.

Her motivation was boosted by her need to break the line of work she had done to that point. She had steadily moved up from warehouse box and stacker, machine operator, shift leader and finally to a position in the shipping department for a manufacturing company. But, at 27-years old, she was ready to make her move.

“I didn’t see myself staying in the kind of company I was in,” she says. “I felt like I needed a better life, better career. I wanted better pay for my family.” She decided to explore her natural talent for and interest in medical treatments.

It all came together quickly after a tour of SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting (CMA) program on the Madera campus. She quickly enrolled and joined a full class of 25-students. It was instinctive and a practical path toward the future she envisioned for herself and her family.

As she expected, Alejandra especially liked the hands-on components of the Clinical Medical Assisting program. “Sometimes I was nervous, but I would not let it get to me. We would get to practice on each other (venipuncture, blood draws, for example), and sometimes our instructor would let me practice on her. She was really supportive with that and would guide me.”

The Monday-Thursday class was also open on Fridays for students who wanted a little extra study, guidance or technical practice. “I would be the one who would always show up,” says Alejandra.

“If I was stuck on something or needed help, she (instructor) would be there for one-on-one, so that I would understand it.”

But it was the support she got at home that made it all possible. “Christopher watched the kids while I was in school and I would watch them while he was working,” says Alejandra. Homework could be a struggle with the younger kids, especially, wanting attention. She made a game of ‘playing school’ with them. “I would give them a pencil or crayon and tell them to do their homework and mommy will do hers,” says Alejandra. “My kids do understand and, thankfully, don’t throw tantrums.”

Christopher made sure Alejandra could focus on school. “In the mornings he would make breakfast, feed the kids and make sure everything was done, so I wouldn’t have to worry about them,” says Alejandra. “He also helped with housecleaning.” On most weekends Christopher was off work from his job as a forklift driver, the family liked to go to the park or out to eat.

Their young family pulled together to make it work. “I actually liked waking up and getting ready for school,” says Alejandra. She never takes her eyes off the prize her family’s sacrifice will bring.

“It might be stressful at the moment, but if you keep going forward, it will be worth it. You get to learn a lot, get better pay and have a better life.”

Alejandra Espinoza SJVC student in her work scrubsAlejandra complete her Medical Assisting program late last year and now works for a large manufacturing company in Fresno. She just went from part-time to full-time as she provides CoVid-19 testing for the company’s night-shift sanitation and maintenance employees.

“I take temperatures as soon as they clock in and ask if they’ve been around anyone sick or with CoVid symptoms,” says Alejandra. She goes through a series of questions that, if responses signal possible exposure or symptoms, she can not allow them to proceed to their job stations. She sends them home and tells them someone from Human Resources will call them with instructions for mandated follow-up procedures.

“I also clean and sanitize my area, door, table, thermometer and immediate service area,” says Alejandra. “So far I haven’t gotten anybody with a fever and no positive tests.”

Her new full-time work schedule does not balance as well with Christopher’s hours, so Alejandra’s parents have stepped in to help. They keep the kids while both Alejandra and Christopher are at work, oftentimes overnight. “They’ve supported me, helped me out and have always been there for me,” she says.

Alejandra’s taste of what education can bring into being has given her another vision to explore. “I want to be a paramedic (Emergency Medical Technician – EMT); that’s what I really want to do in life. It’s why I started in the medical field – to find out what our body can go through.”

Once again, Alejandra is finding the encouragement she needs to go forward. “I told Christopher about it (becoming an EMT).  “You should keep going, finish college and do something you really like,” she says Christopher tells her.

Alejandra has found the key to career happiness. “I want to keep going with my education. Being a paramedic would be my goal.”

Her ambition is contagious. Alejandra’s younger brother just finished high school. Many eyes are on her; and her education and career success will touch and lift their lives, as well.

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