In 2002 Carla Sanchez, a New Jersey native, moved to Puerto Rico after her father passed away unexpectedly from a massive heart attack. The move was Sanchez’s attempt to save the produce farm her father started after retiring from a 20-year career with the Jersey City, New Jersey police department. After a year, “this city girl quickly realized she was no farmer” and decided to join the Puerto Rico Army National Guard. Despite having no background in the medical field, Sanchez’s recruiter convinced her to enlist as a healthcare specialist / combat medic. Upon returning from basic combat and medical training, Sanchez’s unit was scheduled to deploy to Iraq in November of 2004 for active duty. She deployed with a medical unit that took charge of a Troop Medical Clinic and was able to gain a vast array of experience as part of the Ambulance Platoon. In the midst of this intense and life altering experience, Sanchez was struck with the realization that she had found her true calling, taking care of the sick and injured.
After being home for six months, Sanchez was deployed again to Iraq. This time she was deployed with Combat Engineers whose assignment was to search for roadside bombs. During this deployment she rode on 155 combat patrols with the engineers and earned her Combat Medic Badge as a result of her performance of medical duties while simultaneously being actively engaged by the enemy. Upon returning to Puerto Rico, Sanchez began to pursue her nursing degree, which proved more difficult than anticipated due to the language barrier and the addition of a newborn daughter to her family. Her daughter’s developmental delays, which were subsequently diagnosed as autism, and Sanchez’s desire to continue her education eventually led her back to the United States.
Once Sanchez decided to return to the United States, she requested a transfer to the Ohio Army National Guard and moved to Ohio. In talking to fellow service members about her educational goals, Cuyahoga Community College was recommended repeatedly. Then, after beginning a job as a nursing assistant at Southwest General Hospital and hearing how many nurses received their degrees though Tri-C, Sanchez’s decision was cemented. As she describes, “My experience at Tri-C has been nothing but smooth. From the admissions staff to the Veteran representative to the instructors themselves, I have had a wonderful experience. The nursing program is very challenging, and it should be! These programs are turning out professionals who will have people’s lives in their hands. I have been brought to the point of tears with all that was on my plate - being a single mother to my daughter and her having special needs, working, and fulfilling my responsibilities to the National Guard - on top of the seemingly mounds of schoolwork and time this program demanded. That being said, the scholarships I received during my time at Tri-C allowed me some relief, especially having to drop down to half-time hours at work. These scholarships helped to cover crucial expenses throughout the nursing program.”
Sanchez graduated with her associate degree in May of 2016 and is continuing at Tri-C in the fall to complete the pre-requisites for her BSN. Her future goals include staying on her current floor at Southwest General once she is fully licensed, to commission to become an officer in the Army National Guard, and get her master’s degree so that she can be a clinical instructor within a nursing program. “I have been so inspired by the instructors I have had at Tri-C, I would love to follow in their footsteps to make a difference in a nursing student’s career. Thank you Tri-C!”