“There is no limit to what, we as women, can do.”-Michelle Obama
Noemi Reyes is living up to Michelle Obama’s quote. She is a young Mexican-American woman and the grandchild of immigrants. Her grandparents immigrated to the United States and began working in the fields in hopes of the creating the American dream. They started a huge family with twelve kids, and Noemi is a first generation college graduate.
As a young child Noemi had to work harder in elementary school than other children.
“I always struggled in school. English is my second language, and it was very difficult for me to learn to speak and write. I lived in a household where no one spoke English so there was no one to help me with my homework. Kids bullied me for not knowing how to pronounce words correctly or how to say my classmates’ names,” said Noemi.
With the help of her teachers she began learning English. She found that reading chapter books was the easiest way for her to learn English, so she would take home library books. At home she read chapter books to her family. As a result she was teaching them English too. As she entered middle school age she discovered her dream was to help others by one day becoming a nurse. Due to the hardships of learning English and being bullied she often disliked school and did not consider college as an option, but her grandfather continually encouraged her.
“I was discouraged a lot growing up. I was constantly being asked ‘How do you expect to be a nurse when you don’t speak English properly?’ But my grandfather was the one telling me I shouldn’t give up because there is always gonna be people to hurt your feelings or bring you down, but it should never stop you from pursuing your dream,” said Noemi.
With her grandfather in her corner she knew she could rise above the negative perspectives of others and fulfill her aspirations. She decided she was going to show her siblings that they could succeed regardless of their circumstances.
Channeling the work ethic of her grandparents and parent Noemi began her academic journey. In high school she participated in the dual enrollment program at Southern Regional Technical College (SRTC). Dual Enrollment is designed to prepare students for college and career opportunities. Students can earn industry-recognized certifications/licensees, an associate college degree, or college credits toward a bachelor’s degree.
SRTC provided her with the support she needed to work toward her dreams.
“I had no idea how to register or pay for college. The people at Southern Regional helped me understand how to apply for financial aid, register, and gave me guidance during and after dual enrollment,” said Noemi.
When she was not at school she was helping care for her five siblings and/or working in the fields with her family, and she didn’t take a break from school or work in the summers either. She worked in the fields from 5am until dark then attended online college courses at night. This dedication earned her a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license at the age of 16 and a nursing degree at 18 years old with her grandfather as her biggest supporter. Two weeks before graduation her grandfather was hospitalized for COVID and unable to attend her graduation. Shortly after graduation he passed away, but she knows he is proud of her accomplishments.
Her courageous journey has inspired others in her family to pursue their dreams. Her mother recently earned her general education development (GED) and is considering higher education to begin her career as a translator. Numerous cousins are participating in dual enrollment at SRTC with one cousin recently graduating with his radiology degree and another with her LPN degree. Her Aunt is currently in the accounting program.
As Noemi moves forward her number one goal is to provide the best patient care possible. She is no longer self-conscious of her English speaking abilities. Her bilingual skills are a huge asset to her career. She is able to bridge the language barrier gap between the medical field and the Spanish speaking community.
“I love seeing my patients’ faces when they see me. They ask if I speak Spanish and are happy they can finally communicate what is wrong to someone who will understand and can translate their issues to a doctor. It benefits patient care,” says Noemi. “They’re able to relax and trust.”
At nineteen years old Noemi Reyes is showing the world there is no limit to what women can do.
Written by Erica Thrift
In 2021 Noemi was awarded SRTC’s Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership and recognized as their Student of the Year. She is currently a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) working at Tift Regional Medical Center while continuing at SRTC to earn her registered nurse (RN) degree.