Gabriel Villasenor worked at a tire shop for four years before taking his first steps toward a career in health care.
Feeling the pull to go a different route, he decided to return to school to study patient care. Working as a certified nursing assistant at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance was a stepping stone for Villasenor. It was not a final destination.
Even then, Villasenor had his sights set on becoming a licensed vocational nurse, but roadblocks kept getting in the way. A friend told him about the Valley Association for Development and Advancement and how VIDA provides financial assistance to help unemployed and underemployed individuals in the Rio Grande Valley earn degrees and certifications that will lead them out of poverty and into high-wage, high-demand jobs. Villasenor applied and was then accepted into VIDA.
“They paid for my books, my uniforms and my tuition,” Villasenor said.
One year later, Villasenor graduated from South Texas College with an associate’s degree in vocational nursing. He then had to take, and pass, the national licensing exam to earn the title of LVN, which he did. In April, he was hired at a healthcare facility in the Valley. He now earns $20 an hour, a significant increase from his days at the tire shop.
“I now have more job opportunities and better pay,” Villasenor said, “which leads to a better lifestyle for my family and me.”
His family includes his wife and three young children.
Becoming an LVN has turned out to be another stepping stone for Villasenor. He hopes it will take him to an Associate Degree Nursing Program next spring. Each step he takes leads him to a brighter destination.