Medical Office student rises above personal tragedies and builds a better future
Twenty years ago, Araceli Campos was a 14-year-old girl struggling in a single-parent home with her mother and her younger sister. Life became even more difficult when she realized she was pregnant. Whatever hope Araceli had for a better life slipped away.
“Getting pregnant at an early age was pretty much where my life ended, and I thought I would never amount to anything,” says Araceli. “I didn’t think I’d ever be able to get a job which I would enjoy or be able to help others.”
After daughter Ruby was born, Araceli did the best she could to keep up with classes while being a young mother. Araceli’s mom helped as much as she could. “She was a single mother but she did the best she could with what she had,” says Araceli.
The years rolled by and Araceli married and then had a son, Ethan. By her early 20’s, she was divorced. At 25, she suffered her greatest loss when 5-year-old Ethan’s life was taken, in a car crash, while on a camping trip with his dad.
“I lost it after that; gave up on myself,” says Araceli. “Nothing else mattered.”
Things went into a slow dive. “I fell into addiction and attended a 6-month inpatient rehab program that provided therapy,” says Araceli. “I found out things about myself, excuses of why I did what I did and how to deal with them.”
A little bit of daylight began to break through.
Ruby is now 20 years old and lives on her own; Araceli’s 10-year-old son, Isaiah, lives with his grandmother; and Araceli now has Sergio (3) and Iliyana (2).
Last year, Araceli was working at her local Madera Goodwill when she noticed SJVC’s sign. She had previously worked for a short time at Darin M. Camarena Health Center and enjoyed helping patients. She knew she had a lot of compassion and a natural ability to make others feel comfortable so a medical program might be worth checking out.
In less than a week, she was enrolled in the Medical Office certificate program.
“My mom and kids were a little skeptical at first, but have been really supportive and give me the encouragement I needed to continue,” says 34-year-old Araceli.
Araceli now has a 3.69 GPA and is Associate Student Body Secretary.
“Araceli is always eager to help and she deserves recognition for changing her life and rising above all her own personal barriers,” says Belinda Garcia, Academic Dean and Dean of Students. “She has been through so much, yet wakes up smiling every day.”
“My greatest difficulty was probably myself, because I’ve never felt the way I feel now,” she says. “I feel confident. I know that I can go out and do something positive and be great at it.”
If Araceli’s greatest difficulty was unloading that voice that told her she was not good enough; surely one of her finest moments was an invitation that challenged that voice’s negative message and confirmed her sense of self.
“The moment I was asked to speak at the ribbon cutting (for SJVC Madera‘s Open House), that’s the moment I knew I came to the right place and was going in the right direction,” says Araceli. “For as much as I can talk, I was speechless; it was such an honor.”
There was a lot Araceli wanted to share with those there to celebrate SJVC’s newest campus – especially her fellow students. An excerpt of her speech follows:
Before coming to SJVC, I was at my end of the road, or so I thought. I had no hope for my future, no plans for a career, much less for success. Becoming a teenage mother at 14, I gave up on aspiring to anything more. I grew up with alcoholism and physical abuse; as an adult I encountered many unfortunate situations, divorce, cps, addiction, incarceration, probation, rehabilitation and the loss of a child. Today…I am a more confident, motivated individual who chooses to make a change for a brighter future, for me as well as for my children; and be a positive role model for those who, like me, once felt there was nothing more.
Today, Araceli is optimistic about her future. She plans to keep going with her education, and get her A.S. degree at SJVC, then eventually her Bachelor’s degree in Human Services with a concentration in addiction. Her past now pushes her forward instead of holding her back.
“I know I made mistakes in my life and it kept me down for so long,” she says. “But just because I’ve made mistakes doesn’t mean I don’t deserve something better. I’m not going back; I’m going full force ahead and there’s no stopping me now.”
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