Yazmin Neira continues to inspire her family to accomplish their goals at San Jacinto College the way she did. Her son is a dual credit student at the San Jacinto College South Campus, and her husband has enrolled for the Fall 2012 semester. Pictured left to right: Yazmin Neira, Hector E. Neira, and Allison Neira. Not pictured, Hector D. Neira. Photo credit: Andrea Vasquez, San Jacinto College marketing department.
The family that learns together, succeeds together
Andrea Vasquez-- August 14, 2012
HOUSTON — There are many pathways leading to the road of success. While the end result often gives the traveler an accomplished sigh of relief, the journey will always hold the lessons learned and valuable experience that will accompany the next milestone ahead. For San Jacinto College student Yazmin Neira, language barriers, low income, and family responsibilities wouldn’t stop her from getting a higher education.
Originally from Colombia, Neira immigrated to the U.S. in 1997 to join her husband, Hector, to find better opportunities in almost every aspect of life. Knowing the U.S. economic situation, it was a risk they decided to take. They set out to find work, and soon Neira found a job cleaning houses. Still unable to understand or speak English, she managed to get by, and was able to help provide for their growing family.
Neira knew she was capable of more. Having been a nurse in Colombia, she wanted to get back into the medical field. Aside from all the regulations and certifications she would have to get in the U.S., she knew the first step would be learning English. Independent-minded by nature, Neira set out to accomplish her goal one step at a time.
“I really wanted to get back into nursing, but knew the requirements were a lot different here,” said Neira. “I was raised to not have to depend on anyone, because you never know what situations life may present to you. I came to this country and didn’t know English, didn’t know how to drive, and didn’t have a job. I wanted more to fall back on in case my husband got hurt at work or lost his job for some reason.”
After cleaning houses for a few years and taking ESL classes, Neira decided to look into the vocational nursing program at San Jacinto College. She spoke to a financial aid specialist, who took the time to answer her questions whenever she came to campus, and, according to Neira, “Made me feel comfortable even though I felt that my English wasn’t that good yet.”
Registration for any new college student can be confusing, but completing the process in another language can definitely be intimidating. San Jacinto College Financial Aid Specialist, Imelda Umansor, would not let this be an obstacle in Neira’s way. “The first time I met Yazmin in 2009, she had come to find out how to do an appeal for her financial aid status,” said Umansor. “I assumed things were fine since I hadn’t seen her the following semester. My husband was involved in an accident, and later I learned that she was his rehabilitation nurse. She told me that her financial aid hadn’t been approved again, so she decided not to enroll that semester. I encouraged her to come back and see me, and when she did, we figured out it was because she changed degree plans - a pretty common and easy mistake to fix. From then on we developed a friendship and she knew I would do everything I could to help her reach her goal of completing the nursing program.”
And that she did. Neira has also decided to pursue a bachelor of science degree in nursing. Talking to other nurses, doctors, and perspective employers, she values being able to attribute San Jacinto College with her professional certification. “San Jacinto College has opened so many doors for me. When employers ask about your educational background and hear you’ve gone through the San Jacinto College nursing program, they feel more confident in your abilities to care for patients because they know the high caliber of the program. I love my job, I love my patients, and San Jacinto College helped me get here.” After completing her bachelor’s degree, Neira hopes to eventually go back to Colombia to do missionary work, providing medical care to some of the most impoverished areas of the country.
Seeing her set out and accomplish her goals has also inspired her son, Hector D., and husband, Hector E., to do the same. At just 16, her son is a senior at J. Frank Dobie High School and a dual credit student at the San Jacinto College South Campus. “My mom has shown me every day that if you focus and work hard toward your goals, anything is possible.” He has plans to transfer to Texas A&M and study anesthesiology. The Neira’s ten-year-old daughter, Allison, also continues to do well in school. This same attitude is what her husband is building upon as he enters college for the first time this Fall semester, taking ESOL classes. Wishing to pursue an associate degree within the College’s computer information technology program, seeing meant believing. “Seeing her study, do her homework, do her clinicals, and still make time for everyone showed me that it is possible,” said the 50-year-old mechanic. “We were all working together to help her accomplish her dreams. Now that my son and I are continuing down the same path as a family in this together, we continue to encourage and support each other.”
Without the help and encouragement of College staff members like Umansor, Neira says she probably would not have seen it through. “I’m here today thanks to Mrs. Umansor. I can’t put into words how thankful and blessed I am to have met such an inspiring person. At times I was close to dropping out of school, but she encouraged me to continue on, not only for myself but also for my family. She made me feel at peace with her kindness and taught me that it’s never too late to start my career. The possibilities are there for you to achieve your goals, but you have to want it for yourself. You have to take initiative and do the work, but San Jacinto College can help you succeed.”
“I just want to make sure that our students don’t give up,” said Umansor. “I push them to accomplish whatever they set out to do. It’s unbelievably fulfilling to know you helped that person, especially when you know they’re out there giving it everything they have.”
The value of higher education is something that the Neiras hope to personify. “Things will get hard, but they are not impossible. I tell my kids that I won’t have money to leave them when I’m gone, but I will show you what an education will do for you; that is something worth more than anything, and no one can ever take that away from you,” she said.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.
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