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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Medical Assisting Student Brenda on school, family and loss

October 14, 2013
When Brenda’s stepmother died in a car accident, Brenda found solace and purpose in her studies.

Brenda Cabrera grew up wishing she could be anywhere but home. Her parents were divorced and her father, Roger, “fought for custody many times,” says Brenda. When she was 17 her father was finally successful, and Brenda went to live with him and her stepmother, Elvia, and stepbrother, Yandell. She had the family she longed for all those years.

After Brenda graduated from high school, she was pretty sure she wanted to join the military. But, she and Elvia had grown so close that Elvia couldn’t bear the thought of Brenda leaving home.

“She was the mother-figure in my life,” says Brenda. “And she was the one who motivated me, gave me confidence,” since her dad worked long hours and was away from home so much. “She kept telling me, ‘You need a brighter future.’”

Always interested in the medical field and with Elvia’s excitement for her to explore it, Brenda found herself looking at SJVC’s Medical Assisting program in Temecula last September. Elvia whispered encouragement every step of the way.

Before Brenda could enroll, Elvia was killed in a car accident.

Grieving and floundering without her strongest supporter, Brenda enrolled and began the MA program in October, just a month after her family’s devastating loss.

“I really didn’t want to be in school and wasn’t planning on sticking around,” says Brenda. But then, two very important things happened. First, she fell in love with her medical studies.

“I really connected with the hands-on activities, but thought I’d be too scared to do some of them,” says Brenda. “But, I didn’t shy away and just got in there and did the blood draws and injections.” She surprised herself and felt her fears melt away, “especially after my teacher looked at me and said, ‘That’s perfect; you’re a natural,’” says Brenda, who promptly started assisting other students.

The second thing that made it possible for Brenda to stick with her decision to get an education was meeting four new friends who, together, changed everything for her.

She found Elvia’s voice of love and support in these young women. Christian, Jenny, Eve and Adi are Brenda’s go-to when self-doubt creeps into her psyche.

“I’m a very religious person and I believe she (Elvia) put them in my path so I could remember her words,” says Brenda. “I see her qualities in them and they say the things she always said.”

Today, life is full for Brenda. She is feeling strong. At home she does all she can to help take care of her dad and little brother. At school she tries to touch as many lives as she can in a way that hers was touched. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

“As a federal work study student tutor, she has walked many of her fellow students thought the math and English study plans with a gentle hand,” says instructor Jessica Knight. “Brenda is one of those special people who can add insight to your life or teach a lesson that you may not have understood before.”

Brenda graduates in December and knows she will miss so much from her experience at SJVC Temecula – especially her four new friends.

“We’ve talked about it and I know if we don’t get to see each other again, I am grateful for what they gave to me and I’ll take it with me,” says Brenda.

But Brenda will always remember the hard place she was in and how she got out.

“I see people like that here and I’ll stop and ask if they want to talk,” she says. “Maybe I can help them out, if only to just have a better day. Share what’s been given to you. You know, pass it along.”


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