Nursing program helps Graham student provide better life for her family

by Julianne M. Murrah | Aug 31, 2015 <p> </p>

After a year of juggling motherhood, working part time and being a full time student, Graham resident Elizabeth Salas can finally breathe and know that it was all worth it.

Salas webSalas, 22, is a first-time college student who graduated in August from the Licensed Vocational Nursing Program at North Central Texas College's Graham Campus. Her reason for enrolling in the program is one that started during early childhood. Her father constantly worked and was rarely home, and her mother was in and out of rehab. As an adult, Salas decided to take the future of her family into her own hands, and registered for the program. Additionally, Salas said she has always had a calling for helping others, so the program best suited her needs all around.

"It just feels so good when you can touch somebody's life," Salas said. "Even if they're so sick and having a bad day, I treat them as a family member because they deserve the best care they can get."

During the course of the year-long program, Salas heard lectures, practiced techniques on medical mannequins, ventured with classmates to perform clinicals on patients in hospitals and nursing homes and took exams.

"I feel if I can make a change in this world by taking care of someone then I feel like I've done my part," Salas said.

She also said that she appreciated how the instructors stay involved with students and provide them with motivation.

"The whole time they would say, 'We're not here to fail you; we are here to help you succeed.'" Salas said. "They told us anything that can happen will happen, and they were not lying at all. Every time I turned around I felt like I was getting hit by an 18 wheeler with a life-type problem."

After class ended at 4 p.m. each day, Salas went straight to work until 9 p.m. and would only get to see her son while he slept at her mother's house.

"I kept having to push my son away and study," Salas said, as she began to cry. "I didn't get to spend as much time with him as I normally do -- that was a year away from him. That was the biggest part that weighed on me the whole time."

Despite financial challenges, balancing a child, a boyfriend who was laid off from his job and hours spent learning to become an LVN, Salas continued to push on for her son. She said that she didn't want him to struggle in life like both she and her parents did to make a living.

"The main reason I really wanted to be able to do this is to provide for my son, and for him to see that you need to go to college to make a living these days," she said. "I never had an excuse for why my school work wasn't done - I would stay up and get work done. Every night that I wanted to quit, I kept looking at my little boy and kept telling him, 'This is for you.' He's what drove me to do everything."

Grants and loans through FAFSA and a local Peggy Graham Scholarship sponsored by the Samaritans of First United Methodist Church carried Salas through the program without any worry of paying for tuition.

"If it wasn't for those scholarships, there is no way that I could have survived," she said. "These people don't really understand how much they're impacting someone's life. Any little bit helps somebody's dreams come true."

Now an LVN graduate, Salas has a job at Graham Medical Associates and plans to work at Graham Oaks on the weekends. Additionally, she is taking her skills to the next level by taking prerequisite courses to acquire an Associate of Applied Science degree in nursing.

"My goal is to get my Master's in nursing, she said. "I'm taking it one step at a time."

For information about the LVN Program, call NCTC Graham at 940-521-0720.