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A Rocky Start Leads to a Steady Foundation

A Rocky Start Leads to a Steady Foundation

Posted by:
May 3, 2021
By Veronica Craker
Marketing & Communications

Samantha Saucedo's path was shaped from a young age as she witnessed how varying health conditions affected those closest to her.

One set of grandparents was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and suffered from deteriorating health. Another set thrived, living long healthy lives.

Those divergent health paths set 2019 PLU graduate Saucedo on a journey that culminated in her being accepted into the PLU School of Nursing and receiving a degree, with help from Palmer Scholars, a Tacoma-based organization supporting postsecondary success for youth of color in Pierce County, Washington.

Now, she serves as a nurse at the famed Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

A Winding Road

Saucedo grew up a military kid in Lakewood, Washington. She attended Western Washington University and Tacoma Community College, before transferring into PLU’s nursing program. 

“Becoming a nurse has been the most exciting thing I’ve ever done,” She remarked. “I really did not think I would start nursing right before a pandemic, but I’ve learned a lot about adapting to change and being flexible.”

The Curtis High School graduate admits she’s had a lot of change in her life, especially in her academic career. She started off attending college at WWU in Bellingham but wasn’t interested in the schools’ majors. So, she pivoted closer to home to attend TCC for a year to start her nursing program. 

“There was a lot of self-doubt in switching from a four-year university to a community college,” she says. And even her parents who typically support her had their doubts. But Saucedo says she found support in this new path thanks to the mentors at Palmers who encouraged her to rewrite her own future by starting from scratch to becoming a nurse. 

“The people at Palmers were like ‘do what is best for you,’ … having that constant support was just really amazing,” she said. 

Palmer Scholars and PLU

Since the early 2000s, PLU has partnered with Palmer Scholars to bring nearly 30 students to the university. Palmer Scholars Director Jonathan Jackson ‘12 says the organization seeks to identify Scholars who are serious about creating a better life for themselves and their families with post-secondary education. 

“Our Scholars possess the grit and determination to excel in a post-secondary program; what they lack is the necessary information, resources, and a support network to aid them in reaching their goal,” he said. “We aim to provide them with the tools and resources needed to successfully navigate higher education and transition into a family-wage career. This partnership with PLU not only helps to alleviate the financial burden for our Scholars, it provides them with additional support and connection to like-minded peers as they progress through their degree program. Just as Palmer Scholars is more than just a scholarship, this partnership is about much more than financial aid.” 

The scholarship is what enabled Saucedo to be able to attend PLU. She says she didn’t have the financial support she needed to attend but didn’t want to miss out on a chance to study in the prestigious program. 

At PLU, Saucedo says she learned about more than how to be a nurse. She says she thrived in her general education and religious courses and became inspired when she met English Professor Adela Ramos. 

“I am Latina and had never seen a Latina professor before. Walking into her office was like walking into my home it was just so beautiful,” Saucedo says. “Her class kicked my butt! I had never thought that deeply about things before.”

Saucedo may have felt challenged in the classroom, but Ramos says she noticed in Saucedo a tenacity and an open-mindedness for her fellow classmates, attributes that helped her to thrive in college.

“Although she got excellent grades, it was clear to me that she was not in class for just the grade but to learn and seek new connections,” Ramos said. “When she finds herself outside of her comfort zone, she reaches out and asks questions as well as taking advantage of opportunities to receive feedback and think through her ideas. In addition, Samantha was extremely organized and self-aware about what she needed in order to thrive. These are skills Samantha was able to use in order to reach her goals.”

A Stronger Partnership

In January, it was announced that PLU and Palmer Scholars would be growing the partnership. With this new agreement, PLU will provide accepted students a dollar-for-dollar match of scholarships awarded by Palmer Scholars. These students will be guaranteed a $3,000 Palmer Scholars Scholarship and a $3,000 PLU Scholarship on top of any merit or need-based scholarships they qualify for as well as one full-tuition scholarship annually. 

“What is most exciting for me is the community-building aspect of the partnership,” Jackson said. “Finding your place and feeling a sense of community on a college campus is difficult, especially for students of color attending a predominantly white institution. The fact that our Scholars will arrive on campus with a community of similarly situated student leaders is everything.”

Saucedo says she found that connection with professors, students and Palmer mentors. While reflecting on her journey to become a nurse, she expressed gratitude toward the program donors for helping her realize this dream.   

“They are not investing in an organization, they are investing in the lives of students and they are investing in futures,” Saucedo says. “They are investing in giving students an opportunity to be encouraged and supported in more ways than just financial. I think that’s one big difference between Palmers and other scholarship opportunities that they provide that mentorship and that consistency throughout the years.”

Today, Saucedo keeps busy with her work at the Mayo Clinic. She also has big dreams to one day start her own wellness coaching company specifically for healthcare workers. 

“I really love mindfulness, and journaling, and meditation,” Saucedo said. “So, I’m really hoping to start a business where I can specifically work with new nurses to really formulate a practice that is encompassing to self-care and promoting health not only with their patients but also with themselves.” 

This business includes helping create a curriculum breaking down barriers for diversity, equity and inclusion between healthcare workers and their patients.

“I think there’s a lot of history that hasn’t really been touched, unfortunately, and a lot of the biases that we are seeing in healthcare today kind of relate to that history,” she said, “… so I’m just hoping to be a mentor and teacher to new nurses so they can start their practice off on the right foot.”

Because if anyone understands the importance of finding your footing when starting down a new path, it’s this PLU alum.