Mother of five buckles down to make her administrative medical career happen
Don’t tell Delilah Sanchez she can’t do something. “If I put myself into something and hear anybody tell me I can’t do that, I am determined to show them they’re wrong,” she says. “I’ve always done that.”
Delilah was 33 years old and had no idea what kind of career she wanted – and no plan for what she needed in order to make that decision. “I didn’t want to just be home all the time and felt like I needed to do something for income, for my own curiosity and for my children,” she says.
Her husband Carlos and four of their children still at home were not aware of her restlessness or need to do more for herself and for them. “I’d told my dad (John) that I wanted to work in an office, and he said, ‘Well, show me, then.’” That was on a Sunday; on Monday, she was at SJVC.
She walked in without an appointment or any clear interest in a career direction. “Do I just get a brochure, talk to somebody…. what am I doing here?” she flustered. But destiny has a way of moving you in the right direction.
“I was talking with the receptionist one minute and the next minute I’m talking with advisors, then taking a test,” says Delilah. “What did I just do!” A high score on the entrance exam encouraged her to get a little more serious. “After not going to school for 15 years, I didn’t think I would make it. It boosted my confidence.”
That was the sign she needed to go forward. Delilah enrolled in the Medical Office Administration program. That Friday she attended new student orientation and started class the following Monday.
But first she had to tell her family what she had done and hope for their support. “There was no going back,” she told herself. “It was kind of a shocker for Carlos…my kids too,” says Delilah. They were a little skeptical. “You’re going to school? Don’t quit!” She didn’t realize, then, how much she would want to do just that at several points along her journey.
For all her strong talk, Delilah had some serious self-doubt that threatened to bring her down. Growing up, there were those who expected her to follow in their footsteps of failure. “Some people try to discourage you, but I don’t want to be the person who lets them think they were right.” It was her grandmother Alicia who encouraged her in all things. “She was my world.”
Those two voices of insecurity and courage fought over Delilah’s psyche. “It was the angel and devil on your shoulders; fighting yourself all day long,” she says. Would she find and keep that legacy of determination that got her through so much in life?
Delilah threw herself into her studies. “Once I got into school, I blocked everybody out, just to focus. I did homework instead of playing with my kids. It got really bad, and I would cry.”
School was an isolated existence in the beginning. “I wasn’t trying to make friends,” says Delilah. “I wanted to do my work and be left alone.” It was still a struggle.
One of her instructors noticed her stress and reached out to help. “She could just see and would tell me, ‘Just don’t give up. Your family is going to see that you worked hard to get where you’re at.’”
Delilah also started opening up to other students. “They made me feel like I wasn’t the only one going through something,” she says. “We all became good friends and were just like our own family.”
“It was amazing to see Delilah grow as a person and as a student,” says Micah Holguin, Medical Office Administration instructor. “She never brought anything but a positive attitude to class, even when she was struggling to be here. She came here ready for a change and she did everything in her power to make sure the change was a positive one.”
She also found an unexpected source of support right at home. “It was midnight and I had a billboard project due the next day,” says Delilah. “This was the biggest project for my mod, and I was so tired.”
It was a snapping point for her. “I just couldn’t do it,” she says. Her husband was about to go to bed, and she told him he was finally going to get what he wanted. She was quitting school. “He had never seen me want to quit like that.”
“He got all my stuff from the floor and said, ‘You’ve made it this far and you’re going to finish this work.’ Carlos helped me finish coloring in the projects, and we didn’t go to sleep until 2:30 that morning. We were exhausted.” Tired, but a team.
In those moments of greatest potential for failure, Delilah found two important things. She found that determination always proves her greatest insecurities wrong, and that accepting help doesn’t mean she is weak.
Delilah completed her Medical Office Administration program in May this year and went to work for her dental office extern site. After just a couple of weeks working there part-time, they offered her a full-time position. “I do everything, basically,” she says. “I do scheduling, confirm appointments, check-in the patients and assist the office manager. I talk to each and every one of the patients.”
Life is better in so many ways. “My mom is very proud of me; she told me herself,” says Delilah. “And my family is very proud of me.” She had something important to show her kids, Unique (6), Carlos (8), Gaje (10), Nehemiah (13) and Asira (16). “Look, if I can go to school and do it, after so many years of not going to school, I know you can do this.”
Delilah often shares her education, family and self-doubt struggles with new students during their Orientation. She wants to spare someone from some of the hardships she experienced. Her generous spirit wants to make things a little easier for some of those taking that big step toward their careers.
Delilah has some advice for anyone who struggles with doing whatever it takes for a better future. “You really have to want it, otherwise you’re not going to stick to it. I had to find that out the hard way, too. If you’re not willing to make that change, it’s not going to happen.”
She has proven that change is hard, but a life half-lived is harder.
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