Adriana Zermeno was born to young parents who separated, remarried, and started new families of their own. The transition was hard, and 11-year-old Adriana felt left behind and had to mature quickly for her age. Her mom had to work two jobs to make ends meet for their family, which sometimes left Adriana caring for her younger brother. Finally, however, her grandparents, aunts, and uncles stepped in to help give her as good a childhood as possible.
Adriana sought refuge in her studies. Once she started Akins High School, she discovered their highly competitive Health Sciences program and had a passion for healthcare. She recalls that “I was always studying – science appealed to me. I loved anatomy and body sciences, and then I discovered that I was also a people person. I was very comfortable building rapport with my patients. So healthcare was a great mix of the two sides of my personality.”
By the time she graduated high school, Adriana had a Certified Nursing Assistant degree and completed phlebotomy programs and pharmacy technology. Following graduation, she worked at Austin Regional Clinic and completed her clinical hours.
Chasing the Dream
With her clinical hours now under her belt, Adriana was hired by Product Pharmaceutical Development as a research technician. There she received a great deal of on-the-job training and expanded her skills to drawing blood, performing ECG’s and taking vital signs.
A flexible work schedule enabled Adriana to take introductory courses at Austin Community College. She knew she loved healthcare but just wasn’t sure what degree she wanted to pursue. With her introductory courses complete, she set her sights on attending Texas State University but discovered that the tuition costs were just too high.
Adriana had to pay her way since her parent’s income didn’t enable her to qualify for college grants, and they could not help fund her schooling. As a result, Adriana is the first in her family to go to college.
Hope on the horizon
Then a friend told her about Capital IDEA. This non-profit organization would provide a full scholarship to a nursing program at Austin Community College, including tuition, books, and supplies. Capital IDEA’s mission is to provide “financial support and extensive professional guidance to motivated, non-traditional students who want to earn more and move up in a great career.”
Adriana’s aunt, who also lived in Austin, offered her a room in her home, and in exchange, she helped with whatever she could, including groceries, the light bill, cutting the grass. And whenever she hit a particularly low point, her grandparents would send a small check as a sign of encouragement and help tide her over with gas or grocery money. Although they, too, had never attended college, they shared in Adriana’s dream.
With the full support of Capital IDEA, Adriana started the ACC nursing program in 2018. But she still found herself working nearly 30 hours/week to pay the bills and was finding it very tough to find the time to study for the challenging program
The Community Invests in a Dreamer
Then Adriana’s Capital IDEA Career Navigator did something that would change her life: She nominated Adriana for a scholarship from The Dream Come True Foundation (DCTF).
Adriana sailed through the interviews and signed a contract that committed her to work hard and making good grades. In exchange, she received a monthly stipend that enabled her to drop her work hours from 30 to 20 immediately. Adriana recalls, “I was so excited about the stipend – the difference it made in my life was amazing.”
DCTF Mentors: Guiding the Way for Dream Achievers
But even more impactful than the stipend was when she met her DCTF mentor, Jessica Sager, a general management, leadership, and human resources consultant with a passion for driving social and organizational change.
Adriana admits that “I didn’t know it was going to be this hard. I had lost faith along the way. Having someone [like Jessica] to listen to you meant the world. She gave me confidence and taught me how to cope with stress.”
The mentor/mentee relationship has inspired Adriana. She intends to give back to the community by being a role model for her peers and becoming a mentor soon.
The Dream Fulfilled
By matriculating part-time every single semester since high school, Adriana proudly graduated from the ACC Nursing Program this past May 2019 – roughly six years from when she started this journey.
Having passed her NCLEX board exams, Adriana has a job waiting on the Medical/Surgical floor of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center.
“I feel that I am already super successful,” says Adriana, “and really appreciate the help of Dream Come True.”
Her long-term dream still includes a four-year college degree. And with her drive and confidence, there’s no doubt she will achieve it.
Lessons From the Journey
In addition to the powerful mentoring she received, Adriana enjoyed attending DCTF meetings, picnics, Christmas parties, and fundraisers. “It was great to meet people who wanted to meet me,” she notes. “They thought I was amazing – and I thought they were amazing. It’s so empowering to know that there are people in Austin dedicated to making dreamers like me successful.”
And her advice to anyone struggling to attend college? “I tell every person I meet that’s even interested in college to look into Capital IDEA and DCTF… and keep believing.”