Lucelia Mondragon dreams of one day becoming a nurse midwife.
And with each step she takes toward making her dream a reality, the 27-year-old Beaverton mother is showing her three young children the type of person they want to become — hard working, driven, determined, loving and willing to help others.
Lucelia’s ability to overcome obstacles in order to make a better life for herself and her family recently earned the Everest College graduate a 2010 Dream Award.
The award recognizes one graduate who has completed a post-secondary education while overcoming extraordinary challenges. As the recipient, Lucelia also receives a $2,500 Everest College scholarship to pursue advanced programs in her field of study.
“This recognition was so unexpected,” said Lucelia, who is now a certified medical assistant with the Providence Gateway Clinic in Portland. “I’m not comfortable with getting a lot of attention, but it means a lot to know that I stood out as a student to be remembered.
“And, the financial aid will help me prepare for what I want to become.”
Lucelia enrolled in classes at Everest’s Tigard campus in 2009. While earning her diploma, she worked fulltime in addition to serving as a wife and mother to three children, including her youngest son Isaias, who is now 3.
“It was hard balancing everything, but I am used to having kids and going to school,” she said.
“It was very hard leaving my kids with my husband to go to class or to study at the library for exams.
“I did get good at staying up really late and getting up really early to get my homework done.”
At 15, Lucelia and her then-boyfriend Ignacio Mondragon welcomed the birth of their oldest son Joel, who is now 12. She got emancipated from her parents at 16 and continued her studies, graduating from Grant High School in 2001.
Following high school, she enrolled at Portland Community College to pursue a certification as a nurse’s assistant. During her time at the Rock Creek campus, she gave birth to Lizbeth, who is now 8.
She went on to work in nursing homes, assisted living centers and hospice before taking a break to decide if the medical field was the right fit for her.
“I worked with patients who were always at the end of term, and tried to help see their families through the difficult time,” Lucelia recalled. “I got really close to one of my patients at an assisted living center, and she died right in front of me. I tried to perform CPR on her, but she was gone…
“It hurt me really bad, and I knew I needed to take some time to see if this was something I was ready for.”
She took jobs at a bank and call center before realizing she needed to go back to school – this time inspired by the example set by a midwife who helped her as a young mother through her first pregnancy.
“I chose Everest because of the school environment,” Lucelia said. “Everyone was willing to bend over backwards to help you succeed.”
The decision has opened doors, allowing Lucelia to work with family practice professionals and gain valuable experience before she goes on to nursing school.
Knowing that she’s making a difference in others’ lives means a great deal to Lucelia. When the grueling schedule starts to get to her, she said it’s her children that keep her motivated.
“My daughter told me she wants to be what I am,” Lucelia said. “And, my son was doing an assignment for class and told me that I showed him that going to college was something he needed to do because I have – even though I had all of them and it wasn’t easy.
“Hearing those things confirms everything for me. Even if I did start young, I’m doing the right thing for my family.”