Wendy Sanchez wanted to be a doctor ever since she was a child. But when she received the Tsongas Scholarship to UMass Lowell as a high school senior, she decided to pursue nursing instead. The high achiever who turned hardship into success has no regrets.
“I took my general education courses and shadowed a nurse in the emergency room at Lawrence General Hospital and fell in love with the profession,” says Sanchez. “There is nothing better than being a nurse. It never gets old or boring, you never know what is coming and you have to ready for anything and everything. As a nurse, I am leaving a mark on the world. Nursing is not just a job, it’s an adventure.”
Sanchez, who graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the U.S. when she was five years old. She grew up in a loving family but had little money.
Living near downtown Lowell in a run-down apartment, she remembers having no electricity and lighting candles to get her homework done.
“My mother worked multiple jobs at minimum wage to take care of me and my four siblings,” says Sanchez. “I remember collecting quarters and walking to Brother’s Pizza to buy french fries and soda for dinner.”
The hardships she endured had an upside: it instilled in her a determination that she would never live the same way. She knew that a good education was the key to a better life.
“I am very determined and always strive to be successful,” she says. “I was the first one in my family to graduate from college.”
Today, Sanchez works full time as a registered nurse case manager for United HealthCare Group, giving health advice to elderly people in the Merrimack Valley. She lives on her own and visits her mother daily.
“I live a good life and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” she says.
When she was a student at the University, Sanchez received support from the Bring Diversity to Nursing (BDN) program that provides mentoring, stipends, reference materials and technology to help diverse nursing students succeed.
“I will forever be grateful to the BDN program and everything that they did for me,” she says. “The services that they have to offer are unlike any others at UMass Lowell.”
And now she is already giving back by mentoring other students. In addition to her full-time job, she is working with the BDN program as a minority nurse recruiter, talking to high school students and guidance counselors about what it takes to get into a nursing program and be successful. She brings first-hand knowledge and a sense of empathy and compassion stemming from her childhood days of caring for her younger siblings.
“I decided to work on the BDN program because I love helping others, especially people in my community,” she says. “I became like a mother to my younger siblings when I was young and still spend a lot of time guiding them today. I feel that students need somebody to look up to and I think they will be able to relate to me. I was once where they are. If they are determined to better themselves, then I will be there to support them just like UMass Lowell faculty and staff were there for me.”