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First-gen ASU grad pursues passion for pediatric nursing

Hannah Moulton Belec

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

First-generation Arizona State University student Anjelica Yapura is graduating with a degree in nursing from the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus and hopes to work in pediatric nursing after graduation. Yapura, who moved to Phoenix when she was 7 years old from Live Oak, California, knew she wanted to work with children after seeing her mom teach at a preschool while growing up.

Yapura joined the TRIO program the second semester of her sophomore year and now works as a tutor there. The TRIO program helps first-generation college students, low-income students, students with disabilities and veterans in their pursuit of a college degree. She tutors students on nursing-related courses but doesn’t limit herself to that.

“Anything that they come up to me with, I’ll try to help them as much as I can,” Yapura said.

Yapura’s motivation through college was “making my parents proud.” She loved seeing their faces light up when she told them the success she was having in school. Yapura is the youngest of her siblings but the first of them to go to college. She has even inspired her older sister to go back to school and enroll in nursing courses.

Yapura spoke to ASU Now about her journey studying nursing and what’s ahead for her after graduation.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you finally realized you wanted to study the field that you majored in?

Answer: So my first two years I was in Barrett, and I was a part of this club called Barrett Student Nurses. To get us used to what type of options were around us, they would take us to different hospitals and give us a tour. One of the tours we had was at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. I just remember going around and seeing how each unit was because they had us go through the whole building and talk to some nurses. It really made me more interested in what I was going to do as I started the actual nursing program, since we don’t start until our junior year.

I didn’t really figure out that I wanted to be a nurse until my senior year of high school. I knew I wanted to be in the medical field but I didn’t know exactly what part until the beginning of my senior year.

Q: What’s something that you’ve learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I think the biggest thing that I learned was that it’s OK to ask for help. I think that especially for a lot of first-generation students, it’s very hard to ask for help because we’re always used to doing things on our own.

So when things got difficult, it was hard for me to ask someone, “Hey, I need help on my end” or “Maybe you could help me with this?” It was very hard for me to do that, and I didn’t really learn how to do that until my junior year of college. That’s something that I wish I knew to get used to in the beginning because before, even if I was struggling, I still tried to pull through. It didn’t used to really bother me — to the point where I was feeling overwhelmed or where I needed to go get someone to help me.

The biggest person I turned to was my best friend who I met freshman year. We went to camp for nursing. So I went to him first. Then I went to Rafael — my boss through TRIO. We have a very close relationship.

Q: Why did you go to ASU?

A: The biggest thing is that it was more affordable. They gave me the most scholarships, specifically for my degree program.

It’s also very close to where I live. I live in the West Side of Phoenix so at most 25-30 minutes by freeway, so if I wanted to see my mom I could always come and visit her. It wasn’t too far to the point where I couldn’t visit. My mom is a big part of my life so I didn’t want to feel more homesick than I needed to be.

Q: What plans do you have after graduation?

A: So after graduation, (nursing majors) have to start studying for our certification. Before we start applying for any jobs, we have to study and show that we passed our certification. So that’s the biggest thing for me.

I’m doing my internship at Maricopa Medical Center in their pediatric acute unit and would love to work there, but their unit isn’t hiring anyone at the moment. So they said if I was still interested, I could work through one of their other units in one of their other departments and move up and apply when there’s a position open. I really enjoy working with kids a lot. I’ve already worked six shifts with them, and it made me realize that this is what I really want to do.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: My freshman year Human Event teacher, Dr. Matthew Sandoval. It was his first year teaching at ASU too and his first time teaching Human Event, because he used to teach at UCLA.

Basically, he knew that I was one of the only people who was first-gen in my class. He told me if it starts feeling hard, just remember where you come from. Because sometimes you don’t realize that it takes a lot more than others to get here but it shouldn’t stop you. He knows how hard it is for a lot of first-gens to get to where they are. He said, “Sometimes remembering what you’re doing this for will help to push you to keep going.”

Q: What’s your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite is actually the TRIO office. Even when I’m not working there, I’m always there. You can do homework there, but you can also just hang out and talk to your coworkers or even other students who come in.

Usually students who come in are your friends because you refer them to the program and they apply, so a lot of my friends are in the program. And so by just being there we’ll do homework together, or we’ll have potlucks and eat there, or all go out to lunch together. It’s a very big community for us.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I think the biggest thing would be access to health care. When I was (studying abroad) in Peru this summer, we were able to help out with a community, and we got to help out at one of their clinics.

I thought it was really interesting how most villages would only have one clinic within a vicinity. And if certain villages didn’t have access to a clinic, they would walk or travel all the way to that certain clinic just to get any health care services. That made me realize, obviously, how fortunate I am that there are so many health care facilities within my vicinity.

Some people really need something and they can’t access it or have to go through long, long portions of transportation just to get there. I feel that that’s something that if I could, I would try to influence, and not just in the United States but in other countries as well, where they can have more access to health care — but more affordable access to health care.