“ Use your community and culture as a resource. Our collectivist culture values community and takes great pride in our Latin roots, which is a great strength for us. ‘Piensa que puedes y podras!’ Believe you can and you will! ”Graciela Reynoso
Occupational Therapy, Class of 2023
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to reflect on my culture and embrace that part of my identity. It is a time to remember my ancestors who came before me and take pride in my culture and my roots. As a first-generation student, I take this time to fully treasure and embrace the culture and traditions I inherited from my parents and recognize the sacrifices they made to get me to where I am today. For me, this celebration is year-long, but I appreciate this month as it highlights our culture and teaches the community about our traditions and contributions to our society.
Discuss your background a little and what made you decide to get into the healthcare profession.
Growing up, it was always very difficult for my parents to find healthcare providers with whom they could communicate since none of them ever spoke Spanish. From a young age, I had to learn how to translate for them to get our concerns communicated to doctors, nurses, and therapists, which became difficult when I wasn’t knowledgeable of the medical jargon being used by these healthcare professionals. This became very frustrating for my parents since all they wanted was to be heard and understood by the people around them. This was my driving force to get into the healthcare profession. I wanted to be there for my Hispanic community and be someone they could rely on to be heard and understood, regardless of their language or culture. I knew what it felt like to be turned down from clinics due to our language barrier and I knew I wanted to make a change. As I grew up, I began to learn more about various healthcare professions and my love for healthcare only flourished. As my journey through graduate school continues, I hope to one day make the change my younger self wished to see.
Are you the first in your family to go into college/graduate school/medical school? If so, what challenges did you face?
Being the first to attend college in my family, I knew nothing about tuition, financial aid, or how to apply for schools. My parents were extremely supportive throughout my educational career, but when it came to college, that was something I had to navigate on my own. Getting to where I am now was challenging. There were many times where I felt graduate school was something unattainable and impossible for me to reach, but the support of my family was what kept me motivated to continue to at least try. Today, I am in a graduate program I love with a great cohort and amazing faculty. My hope is to one day be a mentor for other first-generation college students who are going through a similar situation and help them reach goals that seem impossible.
What was it like to get accepted into Midwestern and what does that mean to you (and to your family)?
When applying to graduate school, Midwestern was consistently in my top three. A lot of the therapists I shadowed were graduates of Midwestern and they only spoke highly of the University. I liked their curriculum, how close they were to my hometown, and their dedication to their students. When I got the call from the admissions office letting me know I was accepted, it felt like a dream. I remember yelling out to my family that I had gotten accepted, and we all jumped with excitement. Getting accepted for me meant my struggles throughout my educational career were well worth it, and it only increased my motivation to keep moving forward. For my family, this acceptance served as validation for them in knowing that their sacrifices were not in vain.
After you graduate, what are your plans?
After graduation I plan to give back to my community in some way. I do not have a set path quite yet, but I do know I want to work with the Latinx community. My passion has always been working with children and their families, so I see my future somewhere in that area of practice. I hope to bring accessibility and advocacy to the Latinx community as well as other communities that are seen as minorities. Becoming an occupational therapist seemed impossible to achieve, but it has become a goal that I am very close to achieving. I want this achievement to not only be my own, but my family’s and my community’s as well.
Any advice you'd like to give to other students who come from a similar background?
Even if it seems like all odds are stacked against you, you can achieve your goals with hard work and determination. Use your community and culture as a resource. Our collectivist culture values community and takes great pride in our Latin roots, which is a great strength for us!
“Peinsa que puedes, y podras!”
Believe you can and you will!
Graciela Reynoso is a Class of 2023 Occupational Therapy student on the Downers Grove Campus.