How a motivated student exceeds a mother’s dreams
When Lida Castañeda de Gil emigrated from Medellin, Colombia to settle in New Jersey in 1986, this non-English speaking mother may not have dreamed of having a daughter who would be a nurse. Three years later, Jennifer was born. Her mother, who became a single parent when her daughter was a toddler, supported three children through housekeeping jobs. She had never reached middle school yet saved and hoped.
Jennifer was the first of the children to graduate high school. The family pitched in to send her to her mother’s homeland so she could connect with her roots. “I had the opportunity to shadow one of my cousins while she worked as a nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit at a local hospital. Through shadowing her, I found my ultimate calling to pursue a career in nursing. I decided that with determination and hard work no matter what my station was in life, I had the power to change my destination,” notes Jennifer. Describing Medellin, the junior from Clementon, N.J. says, “Most of my family still lives in poverty there today. After witnessing all the health disparities they experienced, I knew that I wanted to be a nurse more than anything in the world.”
Returning from Colombia, Jennifer wasted no time in seeking advanced education. She qualified for free tuition and enrolled as a pre-nursing major at Camden County Community College where she became president of the Human Services Outreach Club and earned an associate degree while working full time in a childcare facility. Next, Jennifer set her sights on a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. Piecing together grants, loans, and a part time job for support, she matriculated as a BSN student this academic year starting fall 2011, landing on the Dean’s list.
Jennifer’s drive is evident in the speed with which she established herself as a leader. She recalls, “I immediately became active with Villanova’s chapter of the Student Nurses’ Association of Pennsylvania (SNAP), where I have built diverse friendships and networks. With the encouragement of my chapter, I ran for and was elected to the state student Board of Directors of SNAP and recently represented Villanova on the National Scholarship Selection Committee of the Foundation of the National Student Nurses Association.”She also volunteered at an elementary school serving one of the financially poorest areas of Philadelphia.