Ana Karina Magana sounds like many accomplished Polk State College graduates. She speaks with pride and confidence about accomplishing her degree and career as a nurse; yet at one time, she thought she would never go to college because she struggled to speak English.
Magana emigrated from Mexico with her family in 2009 when she was 13 years old.
“Life wasn’t easy in Mexico and our town wasn’t very safe. I had to travel to another town to go to high school,” Magana explains of her childhood. “My parents decided to move us to the United States. We moved here with nothing. But we came here because my parents wanted to give us the chance at a better future.”
She recalls “everything looking different” and her “fear of going to school” because she didn’t know any English.
Some of her peers bullied her, while others helped her to learn the language. With the support of her teachers and by studying the dictionary for more than a year, Magana developed her English and was able to speak up for herself and her family.
Magana didn’t think that was enough to get her to college, though.
“I remember telling my parents that I wouldn’t be able to go to college because communication was too large of a barrier for me. My parents tried to motivate me by telling me my English would get better, but at the time I felt certain that I wouldn’t pursue higher education.”
“I remember telling my parents that I wouldn’t be able to go to college because communication was too large of a barrier for me,” she said. “My parents tried to motivate me by telling me my English would get better, but at the time I felt certain that I wouldn’t pursue higher education.”
At 16, she started working part-time in a pharmacy, which rekindled her childhood dream of pursuing a career in medicine.
As a student at Haines City High School, she met Polk State Coordinator of Career Development Services Jeannette Grullon, whose personal journey mirrored young Magana’s.
“She really motivated me and helped me realize that college was within reach,” Magana said.
She achieved her Associate in Science in Nursing in May and recently passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). She will start as a registered nurse at AdventHealth Kissimmee in August.
“With a lot of Hispanics in the area, when there are patients who can’t speak English I think, ‘this could be my family,’” she explained. “I enjoy being able to help people, even if it’s in the littlest ways possible such as translating.”
Magana said she feels confident as she starts her career thanks to the education and skills she received in the Polk State Nursing Program, which boasts a 100 percent pass rate on the NCLEX-RN for the first quarter of 2020 compared to the state’s 76 percent and nation’s 89 percent rates.
“It’s a challenging program but the instructors really care for their students and want us to be great nurses,” she said.
As the first generation in her family to graduate from college, Magana is proof of the life-transforming opportunities available for students and their families at Polk State.
“If there is one thing others can learn from my story, it’s that if you want something, you can accomplish it if you set your mind to it and work hard. If I did it, anyone can do it.”
“I am proud of my accomplishments because I had always doubted myself, but I made it,” she said. “I made sure that what my parents sacrificed by leaving everything behind in Mexico was worth it.”
Once Magana settles into her new job at the hospital, she plans to enroll in Polk State’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program and aspires to go on to a nurse practitioner program.
“If there is one thing others can learn from my story, it’s that if you want something, you can accomplish it if you set your mind to it and work hard,” she said. “If I did it, anyone can do it.”