Rosemary Cruz was ready to turn her life around when she signed up for Florida Career College’s Medical Assistant Program at the Miami campus but as she was leaving orientation life hit her like a truck—literally.
Rosemary was just minutes away from campus when her car was hit by an 18-wheeler truck, totaling her vehicle and leaving her reeling.
“I thought it was the end of me,” she said. “The officer said if there had been someone in my back seat they would have died. It was crushed like a milk carton. I was really depressed. I lost my car. I lost everything that day.”
Though many of the nerves in her left side were crushed and Rosemary had to wear a neck brace, she begged to be let go from the hospital. Classes started the next day and Rosemary was there.
“It took a toll, but I never let it stop me,” she said. “I could either fall into depression and let the situation take my life, or I push through that, get better and make something of it later on because I’m going to make myself proud, and that’s exactly what I did.”
‘I WAS VERY LOST’
Rosemary was determined to get to school because she had spent too many years avoiding growing up. She was adopted when she was young and struggled to feel accepted. She had her own child at 18 years old.
“I was very lost,” she said. “I was trying to get my life together, recollect myself and find myself. I always wanted to be in the medical field but there was always things stopping me–just the streets and wanting to be a kid. I was a mom at an early age so I really just wanted to party.”
Her partying lifestyle led her from New York to Miami. She spent years partying but also working as a Certified Nursing Assistant or Home Health Aid. In that time, she was away from her daughter and the distance took its toll.
“One day I was very annoyed and overwhelmed with myself,” she said. “I told myself if I don’t start doing something now, I’m never going to stand for nothing. At the time I was 26, I didn’t have anything to show my daughter. What am I going to leave behind for her?”
Even through the car accident, Rosemary knew she needed the education.
“Nothing mattered to me at that point,” she said. “I didn’t care if I went to school and I couldn’t see through the blood clots. I just wanted to be there. I wanted to start something and finish it. I didn’t know how long it would take me to finish but I knew starting was the most important thing for me.”
‘CRY IT OUT, PUSH FORWARD AND KEEP GOING’
“Rosemary is amazing,” said Hassan Arishee, Rosemary’s instructor. “She was really passionate about what she was doing. I remember when she first started, she was telling me the medical assistant program was the first door, it’s only the beginning. She wanted to do nursing and nurse practitioner and to open her own clinic. That was her goal. I told her as long as you have a goal, you can do it.”
Even though she was determined, it didn’t make the program easier for Rosemary. She didn’t have a laptop and spent her first few courses writing every assignment by hand. She also struggled with depression, PTSD from the car accident, and a lack of support from friends in her life. The staff at the school helped her find solutions and kept pushing her to do well.
“I was very behind at first,” Rosemary said. “I don’t have the type of friends that push me to go to school, I have the friends that are asking me why I’m spending so much time on school. I didn’t have that kind of support, but I knew that I wasn’t doing anything with myself out here and I wanted to do something for my child… If they (the staff) weren’t so supportive, I would not have had the strength to go to school. My depression was taking over me, but my counselor brought me out of my house, Facetimed me, made sure I walked out the house. My professor was very attentive to us if we needed anything. The fact that he took his time out for us meant a lot.”
Rosemary’s perseverance inspired several of her friends to go back to school. She plans to continue going to school and eventually wants to get her Ph.D.
Pushing through the program helped Rosemary to grow in more ways than one. She matured for her daughter, found her calling in the medical field, and as an adoptee, she learned a little more about who she is as a person.
“If you don’t know who you are yet, eventually you’ll find yourself through motivating and loving yourself,” she said. “It’s hard growing up not knowing who you are, who you belong to, who is your mom or your dad or your cousins. It’s hard just trying to define yourself in a world where it is defined for you… Don’t ever give up because it will get you there. Cry it out, push forward and keep going.”