Student Success Story: Meet Vera Batista Cespedes
Students at Rio Salado come from all walks of life. Some students start their journey into higher learning at Rio; for others, it’s a chance to pick up where they left off in their studies. For Vera Batista Cespedes, coming to Rio Salado was a chance to expand on the knowledge she learned in another country and prepare her for a career in the U.S.
Hailing from Cuba, Vera Batista Cespedes is currently enrolled in the medical administrative assisting program at Phoenix College (a program that's part of a direct pathway partnership with Rio Salado). Cespedes is also taking English classes at Rio Salado to improve her skills in English reading, writing, and speaking.
"I enrolled in the MAA program because I think it is a great opportunity and I am passionate about medicine," Batista Cespedes said. "In Cuba I was an X-ray technician and I want to continue my studies in that branch of medicine."
Batista Cespedes had already obtained her high school degree while studying in Cuba. “I went on to study radiology for two years at the Medical Sciences subsidiary in Holguin, my hometown,” Cespedes said.
Her family picked a good place for an aspiring med student to call home—in addition to being known for its lush fields and beaches, Holguin is renowned for its clinics and for the Medical University of Holguin, one of the Caribbean's most well-regarded medical institutions.
Batista Cespedes got hands-on experience working in the Cuban medical field before coming to the United States, spending two years doing medical practice in Holguin’s hospitals. For her tireless efforts, Batista Cespedes earned the title of X-ray Technician. “I was practically always in school or working in practice hospitals,” she said. What little free time she had to herself she spent with her family.
When Batista Cespedes came to the U.S, she took steps to ensure that her prior learning was recognized by having her Cuban transcripts translated and validated in the U.S. She also found help to fund her education from a local charter of the Soroptimist International.
Chartered in 1973, Soroptimist International of Saguaro Foothills is part of an international nonprofit organization that's dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls through access to education. Soroptimists are active in more than 120 countries and territories, contributing financial support and volunteer efforts to community-based and international projects that benefit women. The organization's ethos is embodied in its name: Soroptimist is a portmanteau of "soror" (Latin for sister) and optimist. A Soroptimist is a woman who helps other women achieve their highest potential, living up to that sentiment The Eurythmics once sang: Sisters are doing it for themselves.
The Saguaro Foothills chapter of the Soroptimists offers aid to women in the form of GED® testing vouchers, career workshops for girls, and their annual Live Your Dream cash awards (which helps recipients offset tuition, purchase books, secure transportation, or find childcare so they can focus on pursuing their ambitions).
Batista Cespedes is being supported by the Soroptimists for the first six credits in her program. She’s found the tuition support to be a great help.
"I am immensely grateful for the help I have received from Soroptimist International," Batista Cespedes said. "Without their help this would not have been possible. They have supported me greatly to achieve my goal."
Vera Batista Cespedes isn’t the only MCCCD student to benefit from the altruistic efforts of the Soroptimists—the organization supports the RSC Adult Education program and has provided aid to students to help them take their GED® tests.
"Support from Soroptimist International of Saguaro Foothills helps Rio’s adult education students stay on their path to success," said Dr. Tamara Cochran, Dean of Instruction and Community Development. "We are extremely proud of Vera Batista Cespedes and what she has achieved."
Class of 2020 graduation speaker Semisi Latu has also praised Soroptimist International for helping her realize her academic dreams at Rio Salado. "My future is brighter, and the possibilities are endless," Latu said.
Supportive staff and instructors have helped Batista Cespedes thrive in her Rio classes.
"I like everything about my classes," she said. "I think that all the content I've studied so far is very interesting and necessary for medical practice. I like to be constantly getting to know new and interesting things, but my favorite part of medicine is studying the anatomy of the human body. ... Rio Salado College has a very good teaching program and incredible tutors. The teachers give their best in classes."
Batista Cespedes plans to continue her educational journey into the world of medicine once she finishes her MAA program. “I am interested in continuing my studies in the field of radiology and orthopedics,” she said.
From her early days in Holguin to her academic growth in Phoenix, Batista Cespedes is a true Soroptimist: a woman actively pursuing her highest self. She crossed oceans and borders to chase her dreams; with all the passion and knowledge she has for medicine, she’s got a strong chance of catching them.