Esmeralda Guerra’s life has revolved around helping others even when she had nothing. That’s how her passion to become a nurse was born. Guerra came to the U.S. when she was 5 years old. Between couch surfing, second-hand clothes, and food pantries, a resilient woman emerged.
“Even then, my parents and I made meals for the homeless, and tried to save money to buy them sweaters and water bottles,” she said. “I was a teenager making minimum wage working part time with no financial help from my parents,” Guerra said.
In high school, others told Guerra to give up and questioned her taking advanced placement classes and honor classes. But she never gave up hope that things would turn around. She kept staying up late to study.
Guerra discovered a dual credit program offered by Elgin Community College which allowed her to complete her first year of college for free, while still in high school. “I met amazing people who helped me apply for grants and scholarships,” she said. The Workforce Development Department helped her find financial resources and provided emotional support.
“Now I am 22 years old and have my associate degree in nursing from ECC. I’m a homeowner and continue to live my dream of helping people,” Guerra said. She volunteers at the food pantries that once helped her and the organizations that gave her school supplies.
“I’m at the opposite end of how I grew up because I fought to get here,” she said. “It’s because every day, I chose to sacrifice.”
No matter where your educational journey takes you, Elgin Community College is a good place to begin. Visit elgin.edu/empezar to get started.