Graduate set eyes on nursing career early with focus to help community

When Alejandra Salinas was young, she did not see a lot of nurses who looked like her. During high school, she made a commitment to herself to pursue that career and help her Hispanic community.

Salinas will earn a bachelor's degree in nursing in December, and be the first in her family to earn a college degree. As the oldest of three children, much of Salinas's childhood was spent translating English to Spanish for her parents.

"My parents do not speak much English, so when they've had appointments, I've translated for them," Salinas said. "I also want to help my Hispanic community and give back to them."

A student in a cap and gown smiles while leaning against a railing.
Alejandra Salinas will be the first in her family to earn a college degree.

Salinas took Certified Nurse Aide classes while in high school in Indiana and developed a passion for patient care. Her family moved back to Michigan when it was time for Salinas to select a college. She said the decision was easy.

"I just fell in love with Grand Valley. Then I met with people from the Kirkhof College of Nursing and really saw a path for myself there," she said.

Her path wasn't always smooth. For the past five years, Salinas has worked as a nurse aide at an area long-term care facility. The pandemic greatly affected her work and her family.

"During COVID, my mom lost her job and I was the head of household. That took a toll on my classes and I had to take one over but I was helping my mom," Salinas said. "A lot of my coworkers got sick, so there was a shortage of aides."

Salinas said she turned to drawing and painting to help herself cope. "I found some time for myself and that helped a lot," she said.

All KCON students complete clinical rotations in various specialties before graduating. Salinas said she enjoyed working both in the neonatal intensive care unit and on the orthopedic floor. "I haven't applied for a job yet because I can't decide where I want to go," she said.

A person looks down while holding a cap that contains words written in Spanish and the colors of green, white and red.

Wherever Salinas lands, she is confident that her Grand Valley education has prepared her well for success. 

"The equipment in the Simulation Center is just top-notch. We learn and practice during simulations on mannequins that can blink and respond to you," she said. "I am sure I will have no problem adjusting to a nursing environment."