In the summer of 2012, Yinezca Quinones had one more semester to finish at Northampton Community College before she would earn her associate's degree. She was looking forward to moving on to the next chapter in her life, which would include planning her wedding. Then, three weeks before classes were set to begin, Quinones, a member of the Army National Guard, was deployed to Kuwait. Her education, as usual, would have to be put on hold.
"Within these five years (of being a student), I've been deployed twice . The first deployment was to Iraq, and after coming back from there, it was a big adjustment to come here. It was culture shock," says Quinones, who was recently promoted to the rank of sergeant. "Once you're used to something for a year, you come back and the world is different. But one thing I've realized is that I'm very blessed to be able to go to school. Those people over there wake up every day not knowing if they'll have the opportunity to even live."
Quinones found supportive peers when she joined the Band of Brothers club at the Monroe campus, giving her an opportunity to share her experiences with those who had been in similar situations. She also gives full credit to Laura Shamburger, Office Assistant for Enrollment Services at the Monroe campus, for being the person who has been most responsible for helping Quinones to continue her academic journey.
"Laura has helped me tremendously. She knows what we go through and she fights for those of us who have been in the military. I tell her every single day that she's like my angel. If not for her, I wouldn't have stayed in school," confirms Quinones. "The good thing is, with all of the staff and the professors here, everyone is here to help you."
Helping others is something that is in Quinones' blood. It's part of the reason why she's decided to pursue a nursing education after she finishes this current semester. She's also seen firsthand how nurses can be such a helpful and nurturing point of contact for a family dealing with a medical crisis.
"My fiancé's father had cancer, and when I saw how the nurses were with him, I realized that there are two very important points in a nurse's career; you're either going to be with them at the beginning of life or at the end of life," says Quinones. "They're usually very warm people, and you really have to be in that kind of position. For me, helping others is something that's a part of me."
Quinones is planning on eventually pursuing a master's degree even after finishing nursing school, as she knows that every bit of education she receives is a step in the right direction. She's also grateful to the military for setting her on a path where receiving an education became important to her.
"Being in the military has pushed me to become a better person. I joined young, and it forced me to grow up," says Quinones. "You feel a sense of pride not only when you wear your uniform, but when you take it off you still want people to see you as a good person even without the uniform."
Name: Yinezca Quinones
Major: General Studies/RN intent
Projected Graduation Date: 2013