DREAMS DEFERRED: Aspiring nurse faces long wait

Story and photo by ZACCHARY WATSON


Pima Community College student Evelyn Garcia has aspired to be a nurse since childhood, after undergoing reconstructive surgeries for second and third degree burns caused by a fire in her Guatemala home.

Garcia, now three years into classes at Pima, is on a waiting list for the RN program until 2013. In the meantime, she has been knocking off the support classes and prerequisites she needs for a nursing degree.

“Sometimes I wish I wanted to do something else, but there’s no way,” Garcia says. “I just want to be a nurse.”

Garcia came to the United States from Nueva Concepcion, Guatemala, in 1993 at age 9 for surgery. Through a non-profit organization called Healing the Children, her parents found a sponsor family in Tucson.

She lived with Daniel and Catherine McCarthy through a series of five surgeries in nine months, and formed a special bond with the second parents she calls “Poppa Dan” and “Momma Kay.”

Her decision to become a nurse stems from that time period. “I don’t know, maybe because I had a lot of plastic surgeries here in Tucson,” Garcia says, smiling widely. “I just want to help people.”

After visiting the McCarthys in Tucson every year for two months, she moved in with them year-round in 2007 to attend classes at PCC and follow her dream.

“I’m anxious to start the RN program,” Garcia said. “2013 seems so far away.”

Initially, Garcia enrolled in English as a Second Language classes. “It’s been very challenging learning English,” she says. “It’s not easy.”

This semester her classes include Writing 102, Spanish and a very difficult microbiology class. She uses a yoga class to relieve the stress of microbiology.

Garcia often talks by telephone with her parents in Guatemala, but says not seeing them for four years has been very difficult.

“I have to stick here in Pima or go home,” she says with a hint of sadness. “If I go there, I may not come back or I might lose all the language. So I have to stay here.”

Despite dealing with circumstances that would make almost anyone wallow in self-pity, Garcia perseveres and moves forward. She uses the word “gratitude” to describe her experiences in Tucson.

Garcia also felt happy and fortunate to vacation in Chicago last summer. “Chicago is my kind of town,” she says.

While visiting “mi tia Maureen,” she visited tourist attractions, shopped, attended the theater and swam in Lake Michigan off Lake Shore Drive.

“It was good to see the water because back in Guatemala we lived near the water,” she says.

When Garcia gets discouraged about enduring the long wait to enter Pima’s nursing program, “Momma Kay” provides encouragement. “Sometimes I just want to quit, but she is always giving me support. She says, ‘Keep going, don’t give up.’”

Garcia’s volunteer work at St. Mary’s Hospital further affirms her aspirations.

“It does feel, really, like something I want to do for the rest of my life,” she says.

Watch as Zach talks about his life.

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