Jennifer KuiperRegistered Nurse
Good evening, my name is Jennifer Kuiper. My college career began at El Paso Community College back in the 90s. I was playing softball and had an athlete’s path ahead of me. Well, a boy happened, then a pregnancy happened, and then school stopped happening. I joined the Army, began working as a CNA, then phlebotomist, lab tech, and medical assistant, but 12 years and a total of 4 children later, it appeared that college for nursing just wasn’t going to happen.
I met my husband at Fort Bliss. We spent time in Hawaii and New York, both where I tried to get into a program, but could never establish myself or finish prerequisites before we moved somewhere else. In August 2014, we moved back home. I hit the ground running, did my prerequisites and got into the program at EPCC! I was going to be the best student to become the best nurse, but still didn’t know how we would afford such a thing.
I first heard of Project ARRIBA at student orientation. I found out ARRIBA is not financial aid, but also provides other support I had been longing for in order to continue my education. I was shocked to find out that I DID qualify!
As semesters passed, the fall of 2015 took my cherished cousin, who was more like a sister or even a daughter to me. Back in 2014, I dragged her butt to EPCC and made sure she got enrolled, and just a year later, she was gone. I cried for what seemed like years, and felt as if I couldn’t go on, but I found strength in knowing that she would have wanted me to continue my journey. Estela was there for me through the mourning, always patient, gave me strength, helped me stay on track and keep pushing through the hard times.
Fall 2016 approached and I guess I wasn’t done being tested. I had surgery 4 weeks before the start of the semester, and was feeling pretty good, considering. But on August 9th, I woke with chest pain and felt as if I was dying. I couldn’t breathe so I couldn’t call out for help. I threw myself to the floor and got enough of a grunt out to get my family’s attention and off to the hospital I went. Diagnosed with bilateral massive pulmonary emboli, I was fighting for my life. As I fought, I began wondering if I could recover on time or even go back at all. I got discharged from the hospital just in time for orientation, and Estela was there to keep me in the loop with what I needed to do.
I’ve spent countless hours in doctor visits since then, and still ARRIBA has been there for me and my family, providing both financial and emotional support. I would write long and personal emails to Estela, and she was always there to give me words of encouragement. It truly made me capable of finishing this program.
I am proud to say that Project ARRIBA has helped me reach my goals. That hazy dream that I had for 12 years was made a reality by the generous hearts and contributors to Project ARRIBA. I vow to support Project ARRIBA as I step into this next phase of the medical-profession-ladder, and I challenge all graduates to do the same. The gift of education is one that cannot be repaid, but I pledge to support Project ARRIBA so that I can help another person’s dream become a reality.
Jennifer is now employed at University Medical Center earning an estimated $50,000/year.