When you learn, teach. When you get, give. ~Maya Angelou
Weslaco native Gilda Lee Sauceda grew up with a single mom who became disabled when her daughter was just 10 years old. She felt grateful that they had a roof over their head and their basic necessities, but the struggles were real. The labels were there — eighth-grade drop-out, GED holder, low-income — but Sauceda did not allow labels to determine her future.
Sauceda worked at Salvation Army in Weslaco, serving as cashier, donation receiver and processor, and whatever else the store needed, earning $175 a week.
“I was so happy in that job,” Sauceda said. “The people I worked with made it feel like home.”
But in the back of her mind, Sauceda had a burning desire to become a nurse, a desire that seemed out of her reach. She enrolled at South Texas College, where she earned her licensed vocational nurse certificate. Her goal was to become a registered nurse and to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, but it would likely be a slow journey due to her limited resources. On top of this, an eye disease caused her to lose her sight for several months. She was then no longer able to work.
One day while on campus, Sauceda met Ruben Garcia, a then case manager and college counselor for Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement. VIDA is a nonprofit organization that provides wraparound services designed to take residents of the Rio Grande Valley out of poverty and dead-end jobs into high-skill, high-demand, high-paying jobs, through education. Sauceda applied and earned acceptance into the program. She was soon realizing that, with VIDA’s help, she could reach her long-held desire of becoming a registered nurse.
“VIDA was able to pay my tuition, and they paid for my stethoscope, scrubs and more,” Sauceda said. “They counseled me, too. At that time, I was struggling a lot. Ruben provided one-on-one counseling. He really made a big impact.”
Group and one-on-one counseling are a critical component of the VIDA program, where the case managers/college counselors talk to program participants about topics such as stress, time management, financial management, study skills, resume building and interviewing.
With VIDA’s help and help from her girlfriend, Malia Tuiasosopo, Sauceda graduated from STC in 2018 with an Associate Degree in Nursing. With that ADN, she qualified to take the National Council for Licensure Exam-RN. Individuals must pass that test to earn their license as a registered nurse. Sauceda took it and passed.
Fresenius Kidney Care in Weslaco hired Sauceda to work as a dialysis nurse. While working there, she enrolled in Grand Canyon University’s online RN to BSN program.
“Fresenius actually helped me get this degree,” Sauceda said, gratitude evident in her voice.
Sauceda is a member of the GCU Class of 2020. After working for Fresenius for two-and-a-half years, she fulfilled another goal. She took a job as a traveling dialysis nurse.
“I have always been a gypsy at heart,” Sauceda said. She knew this would allow her to combine travel with her career choice. This year, she spent six-and-a-half months working in New Orleans. Her next assignment may be in Arizona.
After earning her BSN, Sauceda wasted no time giving back as a way to repay what she received. On Aug. 23, she officially donated $3,000 to VIDA to fund a nursing scholarship.
“I want to help another nursing student, someone who is struggling, because I was that person,” Sauceda said. “I hope what I did will have an impact like VIDA had on me.”
Sauceda said she has been blessed, beaming over the recent purchase of her first new car, and she wants to share her blessings with others. There were those who doubted Sauceda, saying she would never be able to reach the heights she has now mastered.
“But I always knew I would,” Sauceda said. “I knew there was much more to life.”
With that knowledge, she did what she needed to do — with the help of VIDA, Tuiasosopo, Fresenius and others along the way — to make that burning desire within ignite her destiny.