When Cinthia Vazquez first moved to the United States from Mexico at the age of 21, she wasn’t sure she would ever be able to find a career she could enjoy but with help from the Medical Assistant Technician Program at Florida Career College’s Jacksonville campus, she was able to start on a new path quickly and turn her perceived weakness into a strength.
“It was a big change,” Cinthia said. Her husband was from the U.S. and when they married, she followed him. “I only spoke Spanish. Starting over here was difficult because it was hard to understand the language.”
Cinthia began teaching herself to speak English, mostly by watching videos. After having two children and being in the country for several years, she still wasn’t confident in her ability to communicate.
One of Cinthia’s sons was born with down syndrome, and she learned a lot about the medical field while learning to care for him. She felt drawn to that career to help other mothers like herself, and the children like her son, but she was unsure how to get there.
“I was working in a warehouse, and someone told me about the college and about the career in the medical field,” Cinthia said. “They told me it was short, only a few months, and you could get placement assistance. I decided I was going to take the next step.”
Starting out, Cinthia’s biggest fear was falling behind because of her language barrier. She knew she was the only one in her class who was not a native English speaker. She committed herself to work hard and study every chance she got.
“I was like ‘I’m the only one who has difficulty with the language. Everyone will have more opportunities than me and will do better than me,’” she said. “I didn’t want to have bad grades. But in my first mod I got the best grade in my class, and I got really good grades in all the mods. I thought I would be the last one with good grades, but I was really happy.”
“Cinthia was amazing,” said Shandriece Shine, Cinthia’s instructor. “From the time she entered the program to going out to externship, she has been absolutely amazing and a joy to have around. She studied very hard. She made sure she understands the information. She was one of my student ambassadors, so she helped me out in the classroom a lot with the other students and gave them a lot of guidance to perfect their skills as well. Cinthia was that person that did not stop until she got it and I loved that about her.”
Ms. Shine said she worked hard with Cinthia throughout the program to not only learn new medical skills but also practice her English too. She encouraged herself to speak English with her children at home and practice speaking English while answering interview questions. She knew being bilingual would be a benefit to Cinthia when she got out in the field and she also knew Cinthia had the skills to be an excellent medical assistant.
“She was so determined throughout the entire program,” Ms. Shine said. “She deserves everything she has achieved because she was so committed all the way through the program.”
For her externship, Cinthia worked at the same hospital she had often brought her son to for appointments. There, she was able to use her Spanish right away.
“We have a lot of patients who only speak Spanish and everyone there speaks only English,” she said. “Every time they have someone who doesn’t speak English, they call me to translate. They give the patient to me because I help them a lot with that. I like it a lot when I feel like they need me.”
Cinthia’s patients have also been inspired by her story. She has referred several of the people she has met to Florida Career College.
“It’s a really good opportunity,” she said. “You don’t have to go to college for a lot of years. I know a lot of people who are Hispanic who are here in the US, but they work in construction and warehouses and those kinds of jobs, and they think they can’t move up. They can get if they go to college for a few months and to me it’s not expensive. It’s really good.”
Because of her training in the medical field, Cinthia was able to quit her warehouse job. She hopes to return to school soon to become a nurse.