Success means helping others
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Angela Maria Perez was born in Miami, Florida to parents who emigrated from the Dominican Republic with her older sister. “Spanish was all I knew until I entered elementary school,” she says. “I struggled with English from my first day and throughout high school.” Dyslexia added to Angela’s frustration. She was labeled an exceptional education student (ESE). She felt the stigma of this designation when other students teased her.
“I remember a teacher telling me, ‘Only your looks are going to get you by,’ and another teacher saying, ‘Hey, you're going to flip my burgers at a fast food place,’” she says.
Even with all the negativity surrounding her, Angela persevered and graduated from high school. She found a job as a manager at a department store, but did not find the work rewarding. “I wanted something better,” she says. “I knew in my heart that I wasn't going to let anything stop me from achieving my purpose in life.”
She began going to church, seeking direction. The pastor counseled, "Don't let that ESE title stop you. Take it and trash it. Go forward." It was a good affirmation for Angela. “I did trash that title,” she says. “I didn't let it stop me. I went ahead and completed a Medical Assistant program.” With a new credential, Angela worked at Camillus House, a homeless shelter. “I saw many homeless people pick up their lives and do better,” she says. One of them prompted Angela to think bigger. “You can do more than this,” he told her. She knew he was right.
Angela’s search for more led her to Brown Mackie College — Miami, where she fell in love with the unique class format, small class sizes, and individualized attention. She found employment at Baptist Hospital in Miami through a Job Fair at the school, and worked while completing her degree. She graduated in 2013 with an Associate of Science in Health Care Administration.
While on the job, Angela cared for a patient who happened to be a vice president at Jackson Hospital in Miami. Impressed by her work, the patient offered her full-time employment as a medical assistant in the cardiac unit. “I work with the doctors who place stents in the heart. It’s amazing to see patients progress from trauma to getting out of bed and smiling again,” she says.
Some of Angela’s patients stop to give her a hug when they return to the hospital for check-ups. One patient in particular appreciates the care Angela gave. “She suffered a heart attack that resulted in a stroke. Doctors told her she was obese and it seemed unlikely she would recuperate,” Angela says. “I told her, ‘Just put a smile on and keep going. Nobody can tell you that you can't keep going.’ And she did just that. She gave me a hug and a graduation gift, and said, ‘I love you.’ That’s what I love about my job. This smile on my face is not mine; this smile is yours. It is for my patients, to tell them it’s going to be okay.”
Angela is happy to share her success with her mother. “What I’m most proud of is not seeing my mother struggle anymore,” she says. “At times growing up, she used to give up her plate of food for us. I wanted to earn a good living for her.” Angela is grateful for groceries in the refrigerator, and keys to a car. “We may not have the world, but we have each other, and especially we have my mom's smile back; something she didn't do for a very long time,” she says. Angela and her family are pulling together plans to buy a house for Mom this year. “Something for her to say, ‘It’s mine,’” Angela continues.
Angela plans to continue her education, returning to Brown Mackie College — Miami for a bachelor’s degree. “I know my purpose in life is to fulfill other people's dreams. God is calling me to open a homeless shelter, a rehabilitation center, and at the same time, a center for abused women, who have been told they can’t make it,” says Angela. “Brown Mackie College — Miami is going to help me fulfill my purpose. All things are possible. It was God who helped me, and because of him, I'm going forward.”
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