About seven years ago, Mayra Quezada of Lockport was shopping at a Joliet grocery store and saw information about a local health care scholarship on a screen, she said.
Being a nurse was always her dream, she said.
“I’ve always wanted to take care of people and I’ve always been the caregiver of the house,” Quezada said
Since 2008, the Silver Cross Health Community Commission has given a total of $2.15 million in health care and construction scholarships and grants to numerous east-side Joliet residents and organizations, according to the Silver Cross Hospital website.
Quezada said she applied for the scholarship and received $2,000 a year – from 2013 to 2017, which really helped her pay for nursing school.
Now Quezada is working at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab at Silver Cross and sometimes at the Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital.
For many patients recovering from the coronavirus, therapy at the Shirley Ryan “is the last stop” before the patient is discharged, Quezada said.
Many covid patients experience debilitating weakness during their illness, she said,
"It’s neat to see them progress,” Quezada said.
She attended the former Parks Elementary School, then Gompers Junior High School, and graduated from Joliet Central in 2009.
As a Joliet Central High School student, Quezada said some of her classmates didn’t have a career path in mind. However, Quezada didn't think twice about taking a certified nursing assistant course Joliet Central offered.
“I didn’t struggle with that,” Quezada said about signing up. “I knew I wanted to be a nurse.”
While she attended the Chamberlain School of Nursing, Quezada started working as a dining clerk and eventually landed a role as a CNA in behavioral health, she said.
"I’m grateful that I was able to obtain that scholarship and I’m grateful for the donor of that scholarship,” Quezada said. “It gave me the resources in order for me to complete my education and give back to our community as well.”
Even during a pandemic, Quezada can’t envision a different career.
"Nursing can be difficult at times,” Quezada said. “But it is very rewarding, too. It doesn’t feel like a job; I love it. If I didn’t love it, I would not be able to perform my job appropriately and correctly.”
Quezada said all has four siblings and all of them graduated from college. She said her parents, even though they never completed school, worked very hard to provide opportunities for their children.
Education was a priority and Quezada’s mom always made certain they did their homework.
Quezada encourages anyone to pursue their goals.
“Just believe in your dream and work for it,” Quezada said. “It’s hard work but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.”
For more information about the Silver Cross Healthy Community Commission, visit silvercross.org.