At a very young age, Vanessa Acosta got a small taste of what it might be like working in healthcare.
Her grandmother, who was raising Vanessa and her brother, suffered from an illness that required her to get a liver transplant. That put Vanessa in a positon to help care for her grandmother, a task that evolved into a labor of love.
“I had to be the one to give her injections and monitor her medications,” Vanessa said. “And, I was just 7 years old.”
“This stands out to me because I learned that I loved taking care of people,” she added. “That’s my passion – people – whether it’s serving them a burger or helping them another way. My grandmother inspired me, and I took care of her my whole life.”
It took a few years, though, for Vanessa to create a future for herself in the medical field.
Despite being a smart kid, she chose to drop out of school at 16 to begin working in restaurant management. It’s a career that sustained her for nearly two decades.
But, when the COVID pandemic hit, and she found herself out of a job.
“One of the restaurants closed down for a while, and I had no formal education or nothing to fall back on,” she said. “So, I took the opportunity to call Florida Career College (FCC).”
Vanessa enrolled in the Medical Assistant Program at FCC in Lauderdale Lakes during the summer of 2020. About nine months later, she graduated as a straight-A student who completed the program with perfect attendance.
Today, she works as a medical assistant in the lab of a local medical clinic. She also has aspirations to continue her education to become a registered nurse (RN).
“Now I work in the clinic, I’m really happy, and I want to further my education,” she said. “I’m just happy that I made the decision to go to FCC.”
Ready and Eager to Make a Change
Vanessa is quick to point out that she didn’t consider it work to help out her grandmother, who she loved dearly. In fact, she considers the chance to provide care for her at such an early age to be a highlight of her youth – one that helped her realize where her passions lie in life.
But, when it came to earning education, it tended to take a back seat to making a living – this despite the fact that she really liked school.
“I started working at a restaurant when I was 15, by 17 I was managing, and I was a general manager by the age of 19,” Vanessa said. “I was a restaurant manager for many years.”
It was a demanding job and Vanessa found herself working a lot of hours every week.
“It just wasn’t good for me anymore,” she said. “I ended up getting very miserable. By the time I got to 33 … 34 years old, I got tired of it.”
The restaurant’s closing, then, was sort of a blessing in disguise for Vanessa. It forced her to take a step back for a moment and reconsider career options around what she loves, which is taking care of people.
Enrolling in FCC’s Medical Assistant Technician program turned out to be the right direction for her, and Vanessa decided to dedicate herself to the program and be the best student she could be.
“I was always smart growing up, and it irked me [thinking], ‘Why am I always dropping out?’” she said. “So this time, I put it in my head that I was going to do it.”
Finding Support from FCC Instructors
Vanessa said her instructors at FCC served as great motivators throughout her classes. Ms. Joan Thomas, she said, gave her the kick she needed when she felt herself struggling with online classes early on in the pandemic.
“A few times, I was ready to give up,” she said. “But Ms. Joan, taught me to not second-guess myself. She said, ‘You’re going all the way, and I’m going to take you there.’”
Another MAT instructor, Elena Dena, helped Vanessa stay in a positive mindset throughout her latter classes.
“She’d say, ‘Vanessa, you’re awesome,’” Vanessa said. “’I refuse to let you fail. You’re just going to do this.’ This is just how the instructors are.”
“Ms. Acosta has always displayed a high degree of integrity, responsibility, and ambition,” said Elena. “She is definitely a leader rather than a follower. In addition to her excellent scholastic accomplishments, she has proven her leadership ability by being organized, structured and a true team leader.”
Because of such support, Vanessa went into her externship with great confidence. And, based on her performance, she was hired on full-time at the clinic soon after completing her hours.
And, while she’s eager to gain some on-the-job experience before continuing her training toward becoming an RN, Vanessa said FCC gave her just the start she needed to enter the healthcare field with positivity and confidence.
“This is a great step,” she added. “It took me out of the restaurant world, and I really like my job. It actually encouraged me because I actually finished. I was blessed with the faculty and staff that were behind me and her to push me.”