GoGirl! Grant Recipients
“When Life Give You Lemons… Become a Nurse!” Vivian Arriaga grew up in a first generation Mexican-American household. That brought many challenges, but Vivian was determined to succeed. She worked in the banking industry from the age of 16 and when the banking crisis happened in 2010, she decided to reinvent herself. She became an LVN and found a profound love for nursing. She has goals and wants to show her two small children the value of an education. Her desire is to complete the BSN program at CSUSB, pass the NCLEX and gain experience as an RN while studying for her doctorate. NICU, pediatric oncology, sexual assault nurse examiner and fertility are the areas of interest for her. Life has not been easy for her, but it has shaped the person she is, the Mother she decided to be and the Nurse she dreams of becoming.
A first generation Mexican-American, Daisy Ayala is the first person in her family to attend college. Having dealt with the health issues of both her father and grandfather, Daisy knew from an early age that she wanted to become a nurse. She is currently enrolled in the LVN program at California Nurses Educational Institute and works full-time as a certified nurse’s assistant at Manor Care Health Services. After graduation, Daisy wishes to continue her education as a registered nurse in gerontological nursing. Having also adopted healthier eating and exercise habits, Daisy wants to demonstrate to her younger siblings that goals can be achieved through hard work and dedication.
Annabel Barroso’s dream from the age of eight was to become a nurse. She’s worked hard and faced many obstacles to get to where she is today and is happy to say her path in life to be a nurse is clearer than ever. She attended classes at COD and then transferred to Copper Mountain’s school of nursing. Her goal is to continue her education by obtaining her Bachelor’s degree and to eventually obtain her Nurse practitioner degree. Her dream would be to be a charge nurse of a trauma center saving lives. She has learned through it all to never give up!
After working and excelling in the emergency department at a local hospital as an insurance admitting representative, Crystal Cordova came to realize that providing bedside care with patients was her true calling. As a single mother of four children, Crystal is determined to meticulously plan her short-term and long-term goals. Her short-term goal is to complete her Associate Degree in Nursing, and to pass the State of California’s NCLEX exam and obtain her RN license. Her long-term goal is to enroll in a BSN program and lastly to enroll in a Master of Science-Family Nurse Practitioner program. Through many obstacles, she is determined to climb her way to the top and prove to her children that nothing is impossible.
We were first introduced to Paola Cressler in 2012 when she was attending College of the Desert as a GoGirl! recipient. Married and with a young daughter, Paola worked full time while going to school. Now fast forward to 2018. After graduating from Cal State San Bernardino and substitute teaching in her own classroom for three years, it’s time to complete her teaching credentials and Masters program so she can continue to teach here in the Coachella Valley. Her students are the high school children she had dreamed of working with. Many are the children of migrant workers who haven’t been encouraged to pursue a college education and perhaps might find themselves following in the steps of their parents as field workers. As a field worker once herself, she remembers her teachers pushing her to continue her college education. Today, she sits in front of her classroom and encourages her students to do the same. She continues to look forward to taking the time to sit down with students and help them realize education doesn’t end at high school. It is only the beginning of an amazing journey
Dealing with the legal system to overcome personal issues has fueled Bonnie Falkowski’s passion for the law and inspired her to return to school to become a lawyer. She is a full time student at COD working toward an Associate Degree in Administration of Justice. Ultimately working towards her law degree. Once she completes her studies she hopes to work for a law firm and continue her studies to become a lawyer. Her ultimate goal is to be an advocate for children and to eventually change laws with regard to child abuse. Bonnie is a single mother of an adopted daughter. In their free time they volunteer at a rescue mission for the homeless.
Born in Mexico, Alejandra Gallardo became interested in cosmetology at a young age. After she graduated from high school, her family helped her own and operate a successful salon. When Alejandra got married, she moved to the United States and obtained her citizenship. However, she is unable to practice cosmetology without a license. Alejandra recently completed her first year at Above The Rest Academy and is working toward earning her cosmetology license. She has three children.
Martha Gutierrez Ricardo
At the age of 23, Martha Gutierrez Ricardo arrived here from Cuba. While there she had developed an interest in writing, the performing arts and languages. It wasn’t until she came to America that she began to embraced our capitalist system and refocused her goals. She is now enrolled at COD and would like to get a degree in Business Administration. Her goal is to help others analyze their economic problems to benefit themselves and their community. She has, however, never forgotten her love of music and often performs Opera for various charity events.
Suzi Lacek comes from a local pioneering family going back to 1902 and has lived in the valley all of her life. She lost her father at the young age of 12, and her mother worked hard to care for her and her four older brothers. She is currently enrolled at Somatherapy Institute where she has achieved a perfect score from all her classes. She loves massage and wants to help people feel better and relieve their pain. She is thankful that the medical community is newly recognizing massage therapy as treatments for patients with depression, those taking cancer fighting drugs and babies born addicted to drugs. She will graduate in January.
Pursuing her education is not just a goal Crystal Lopez is trying to reach; it is a journey that provides her with a sense of contentment. Her career focus has always been in healthcare and she is working diligently to follow her plan and achieve her goals while caring for her two young children as a single mother. Her family background includes generations of teen pregnancies and domestic and substance abuse, but Crystal has always been determined to make something of herself. She is the first in her family to attend college and to receive her Associate Degree. Her current goal is to complete the nursing program at CSUSB and work toward her ultimate goal of becoming a nurse. Once she receives her nursing license she would like to apply to a nurse residency program that enables her to keep learning, as well as explore and pursue her career in healthcare.She is part of the Coyote Nurses organization and volunteers to various activities, including the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the California Careforce free medial services event.
Having started out at a community college in San Diego, Natalie Morett moved to Palm Springs in 2016. She is a single mom who is motivated by her young son and strong support system. A student at College of the Desert, Natalie is completing an associate’s degree in science and plans to graduate in the fall of 2019. Afterwards, she intends to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree at a university and later become a director of human resources in the hospitality industry. Natalie is determined to be independent and financially able to support her family with a better job.
Born in Palm Springs from immigrant parents, Judith Munoz was instilled with the ethics of hard work and determination to succeed in life. She worked to put herself through college first earning an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts from the College of the Desert, then commuting for two years to San Bernardino to receive her Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. Being the first member of her family to obtain a college degree, she set out on a path doing something she loved working as a Wellness Instructor at the Betty Ford Rehabilitation Center. When her father became ill in 2013, she spent many hours at the hospital and became inspired by the work of the nurses, seeing a new opportunity for a future career. Now a mother of a young daughter, Judith is committed to obtaining her BSN degree followed by an MSN degree. Her ultimate goal is to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.
Dawn Nepusz has a young daughter and realizes how difficult it is to be single and raising a child. Wanting to improve her financial earning capability and to demonstrate to her daughter the importance of an education, Dawn has returned to school to earn a degree in nursing. Dawn has been accepted to California State University San Bernardino for her Bachelors of Science in the nursing program. Once she receives her BSN, she plans to get a masters in nursing to become a Nurse Practitioner. College means a great deal to Dawn, but the main reason is her daughter sees how hard Dawn works, and in turn inspires her daughter do well in school also.
Carolina A. Pantaleo
Carolina A. Pantaleo, who was born and raised in Mexico City, came to America upon meeting and marrying a San Franciscan. Carolina decided to return to school, get a degree, and become a nurse. In the summer of 2004, she moved with her 2 daughters to the desert where she worked long hours at 2 jobs while taking prerequisite nursing classes at College of the Desert. When her eldest daughter fell ill, Carolina put her studies on hold to work full-time and care for her ailing child. Fortunately, her daughter survived; she and her sister are currently attending college. Now it’s time for Carolina to finish what she started many years ago.
Shawntaya Pride grew up knowing she wanted to achieve the best in life. She’s had some obstacles, but her resilience kept her on track. She always loved going to school and always did her best to keep her grade point average up. She was the first person in her family to graduate from community college. After having two children, she knew she wanted them to have the best in life and wanted to show them they can overcome obstacles and achieve their goals with hard work and discipline. As their role model, she enrolled in Santa Barbara Business School in Rancho Mirage. Her long term goals are to obtain an Associate and Bachelor’s degree in Medical Billing and Coding. She knows what she wants in life and she’s going for it. Not matter what comes her way and tries to stop her, she will never give up on her dreams.
While attending Palm Springs High School, HarmonySperling knew her interests lay in the medical field. She took the ROP Medical Assisting course while a senior in high school to begin the path towards nursing school. After graduating from high school, life took a different turn and Harmony was married shortly thereafter. She is now a single mother with four young children and knows that she wants to provide the best for her children and is striving to obtaining a nursing degree at Copper Mountain College in Joshua Tree. Trying to balance life and school with four small children can be challenging, but when introduced to the Girlfriend Factor by a former grant recipient, Harmony knew she had to go for it and complete her education. Her goal is “to be a highly respected and really good nurse!”
Married with two school aged children, returning to school was no small sacrifice for Yesenia Teran. She had to start from scratch first earning a GED certificate then going on to receive an Associate’s Degree in Kinesiology. Working as a Medical Scribe, Yesenia shadowed a doctor in the emergency room to document patient’s charts. Through her work at JFK Memorial Hospital, she has been exposed to many patients in crisis due to mental health issues and sees firsthand the disparities they face and the lack of proper health care and empathy. Yesenia is determined to earn her degree in Psychology and Biology and then enter medical school. Her long term goal is to become a practicing psychiatrist in Coachella Valley and help develop an emergency department section designated for mental health patients during crisis.
Married, with twins and a baby, Clara Velasco still manages to be a full time student at California State University San Bernardino working toward her Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Although always interested in the medical field, it wasn’t until after the premature birth of her twins and the dedication the nurses provided to their care and survival that Clara knew she wanted to also give back by becoming a nurse. Her advice to women wishing to return to school is to take the risk, because taking on challenges is what makes us stronger and independent.
As a single mother, it has been a juggling act for April Wallace to balance school, work and the care taking of her two young sons. But, through adversity, she has succeeded in completing all of her nursing school prerequisites and has been accepted at both College of the Desert and CSUSB! She’s chosen to attend CSUSB and earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. April has always found the human body fascinating and wondered how she could have an impact on healing and helping others. Her passion is to help assist in diagnosing illness, but more importantly, she hopes to come up with solutions for the preventative aspect of nursing. She feels that there are so many things that we could be doing as humans to create healthier living that could contribute to less illness and disease. Her goal upon receiving her BS in Nursing is to work in a hospital, either in the ER or a trauma unit. Her long-term goal is to obtain her credentials as a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant. At the end of each semester, after receiving A’s, she knows her hard work and dedication will enable her to complete her goals.