Some children sit their toys in rows to play school. Others put them on opposing sides for an epic battle. Anahí Cantú did neither. In her corner of the playground, toys received critical care from world-famous physicians and nurses. Dolls were saved from traumatic injuries, teddy bears recovered from rare diseases, and G.I. Joes were carried on gurneys to the emergency room near the sandbox.
Anahí’s imaginary hospital was more than just pretend play – it was a childhood dream acted out. From the start, Anahí knew she wanted to be a nurse. She wasn’t afraid of blood or other bodily functions, she loved taking care of others, and she showed an aptitude for science. Anahí’s goal was clear. The only question was how to achieve it.
Anahí made her first move toward becoming a nurse in high school. She took a dual-enrollment course in medical terminology through nearby South Texas College (STC). This course made two things clear. First, Anahí was fully capable of academic excellence at the college level, and second, her interest in nursing had not changed. So far, so good.
Next stop, college. Anahí wanted a school with strong healthcare programs, a local campus, an affordable price tag, and a small student body. No one in Anahí’s family had ever worked in the medical field, so while their support was steadfast, they couldn’t offer much guidance. She would need to rely on professors, and she couldn’t do that if she was just another face in the crowd on a giant campus. After giving it some thought, Anahí realized that not only did she know a school that fit this bill, she had already attended it: South Texas College, the school from her high school dual-enrollment class. She enrolled without hesitation.
This future nurse’s career journey kicked into high gear at South Texas College. On her advisor’s recommendation, she first enrolled in STC’s Patient Care Assistant program. The course offered what they call “bang for your buck” – it allowed Anahí to survey different aspects of nursing, informing her speciality, and left her as a certified nursing assistant.
After just one course, Anahí was able to get a job in the coronary care unit at a local heart hospital. During this time, she honed her nursing skills through extensive practice with EKG machines, drawing patients’ blood, and working as a team with other nurses and patient care technicians. What’s more, she was able to earn money for the next phase in her career. Anahí was soon back at STC, this time in the Vocational Nursing program.
This brings us to the present. Anahí has been a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) since last October. She currently works at a day center for the elderly, a job she’s long wanted. “I’ve always loved caring for older people,” gushes Anahí. “I love to hear their stories.”
And her patients love her back. Anahí shares a story about her patient “Mr. X,” an elderly gentleman who comes to the center each day. “At first, he refused to let me help him. He kept saying that I was way too young to be a nurse – that I couldn’t possibly know how to do my job.” With patience, persistence, experience, and an STC education on her side, Anahí soon showed Mr. X that she was more than capable. “Now, he lights up when he sees me. If any other patients give me trouble, he defends me. It’s been amazing.”
Even though she’s reached her dream of being a nurse, Anahí isn’t stopping. She plans to return to STC in the near future to pursue her registered nurse (RN) degree. As a licensed RN, Anahí can keep doing the work she loves but with greater skill and a heftier salary.
For Anahí, the ability to build her career in phases (“baby steps,” as she calls it) has been the best thing about South Texas College. The college makes it easy for her to transition between school and the workplace with its unique combination of flexible scheduling, low cost, and high support. Anahí never fears falling short of her ultimate career goal of becoming an RN. Her professors see potential in her, and they won’t have let her stop before she fulfills it. But they also see the value of going back to work between degrees, both in terms of gaining nursing experience and ensuring financial security. At STC, Anahí feels free to enjoy the best of both worlds.
For most of us, life looks pretty different from how we thought it would as children. This is remarkably not the case for Anahí Cantú. Of course these days her Barbies are real people and she uses thermometers instead of twigs, but her passion for taking care of others hasn’t changed. That passion, combined with solid work experience and an excellent education from South Texas College, makes Anahí what she is today: a dream-career success story.