Rosa Escamilla is no stranger to hard work. This May, she will graduate with a nursing degree from Northcentral Technical College (NTC) as the program’s Outstanding Graduate. Her path to this point was filled with twists and turns along the way.

Rosa’s journey at NTC began when her husband’s job led them to leave Mexico and move to Wausau. She did not speak English at the time, so she enrolled in the English Language Learning (ELL) program. She did not have a driver’s license, so her husband would drop her off on his way to work and would pick her up on his way home. This gave her a lot of time to dedicate to learning English.  

Her understanding of the language improved, and instructors gave her the tools to learn.  

“They taught me how to study,” Rosa said. “They gave me everything I needed to succeed.”  

One of Rosa’s first milestones was passing the test to obtain a driver’s license. This gave her the confidence to keep learning, and she continued to come to NTC each day to improve her English.  

Throughout her time at NTC, Rosa has used accommodations offered through Disability Services. The accommodation she used the most was GLEAN, which is a notetaking software that allows students to record lectures and create a transcript. She could then review the transcript and use it to study. She also used a voice recorder so she could hear the lectures again. These tools helped to reduce her anxiety before tests and improve her scores.  

“During my journey at NTC as a second language student, I learned that at NTC you are capable of learning as much as you want as long as you are willing to use all the support and services that NTC offers to all their students.,” she said. “Learning it is about you at NTC.” 

An instructor noticed her commitment to her classes and asked her if she wanted to become a CNA. She said yes immediately, even though she wasn’t sure what a CNA was.  

She learned that CNA stands for certified nursing assistant, and she signed up for classes.  

“I didn't have a clue what I was doing, but I trusted NTC,” Rosa said. “I knew they saw something in me.”  

It didn’t take long for Rosa to realize she loved the program. While it was challenging, NTC’s instructors offered her all the support she needed, and she knew that with the right tools, she would succeed. She completed the program and passed the CNA test. She had the option to work as a CNA or continue her education.  

She chose both.  

While working as a CNA, she continued her education at NTC, working toward becoming a renal dialysis technician. She completed her program and was selected as the Outstanding Graduate upon graduation.  

She worked at a local hospital as a renal dialysis technician for several years and loved her job. Eventually, she decided she was ready to go back to school to become a nurse, and she returned to NTC.  

Partway through her nursing program, her husband’s job transferred them to Arkansas, and she was unable to finish. Rosa had passed the test to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN), but she was unable to work as a nurse because she didn’t have a diploma.  

She took a position working as a CNA. At one point, she was asked to help in the dialysis department because they knew she had the experience. There was a population of Hispanic patients that did not speak English, and the communication barrier made it hard the doctors and nurses to treat them. Rosa was able to help translate for the doctors and patients and could offer the patients explanations because she had the knowledge.  

Eventually, because she was not technically a nurse, she was told she could no longer serve in that role.  

“It broke my heart because I had the education but couldn’t perform there,” Rosa said. “I wanted to help the patients, but my hands were tied.”  

This led her to the decision to return to Wisconsin and finish her classes at NTC. She came alone, as her husband needed to stay in Arkansas to finish his contract.  

Rosa returned to NTC in the fall of 2023 to complete the nursing program and earn her degree.  

“I really like the system here,” she said. “The way they teach me, the way they make us advocate for the patients, they’re committed to helping me be successful.”  

After graduation in May, Rosa will study for the nursing exam. She plans to stay in Wisconsin to work at an area hospital.