Student Stories



At the age of 12, Kim’s mother loaded the family car with a few belongings and her four children leaving McAllen, TX and a failed marriage to the past.

Though her mother held two jobs to make ends meet, the family squeezed into a one bedroom apartment in East Austin. “We didn’t have a bed. We had one pull-out couch, and I would rather have my brothers and my mom sleep on it than me. She worked so much,” Kim remarks.

“You wish you could do so much more to help the people you love, but I wasn’t old enough. I really wasn’t old enough – I was 14. I was still a kid, but I never really felt like a kid because I always had such a heavy weight to carry.” Kim’s love for her brothers can be compared to that of a mother’s love. Ray, a younger brother, was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of three. Ray’s treatments required the family to stay in the Ronald McDonald House for extended periods of time. Ray has since entered remission and undergone more treatment, but this hardship changed Kim’s personal understanding of her role in supporting the family and sparked her interest in pursuing the medical field.

Ultimately, the burden of caring for her brothers affected her attendance and led to her dismissal from her local high school. Austin Can Academy was not a part of the plan Kim set for herself. Principal Oakes remembers, “She had a hard time adjusting in the beginning. It was obvious she didn’t want to be here, but it only took that first day for her to realize that we were here to support her. After that day, it clicked. She was unstoppable.”

“Austin Can teachers taught you more than you needed to know. When I asked a questions they offered answers that lead me to more thoughtful questions. Austin Can makes you feel like family. You don’t feel, how do you say it in English? I want to say ‘No estorbes,’ like you’re not a bother. If I didn’t make it to school on time, I got text messages and phone calls. When your parents can’t be there to push you, the advisors are there to keep you on track. My mom didn’t talk to me about college – Austin Can did that.”

Graduation was so close Kim could feel it. She came rested and ready for her state exams, and then the worst happened – she didn’t finish her English exam within the five hour time limit. Six weeks later, the news that she failed her English STAAR exam hit her hard but she was positive. “Not passing the STAAR test wasn’t the same rejection I felt from other times in my life. I had support around me telling me that I needed to study a little harder. You can’t lose hope with that kind of support,” remarks Kim.

While continuing to study for her state exams, Kim completed her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training and certification at Austin Can. “The Certified Nursing Assistant program allowed me to start working above minimum wage. This certification isn’t the end all, it is the first step into the medical field. Now, I’m working on my Medical Aid Certificate. I’m making a decent amount, and I can continue my classes without having to pick up extra shifts. I’ve been helping the other CNA students get jobs – one of the girls has a house now. Nursing opens so many doors. I enjoy what I do. I want to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Kim has since graduated from Austin Can and continues the effort to surround herself with positive, driven and empowering people. “When you hang around with people who are not on an upward path, you’re not going to change. When you decide to make a change, you have to make the choice about who you spend your time with. Even if it is family or friends, if they don’t get it – you have to remove yourself.”

“The students – we don’t have a lot, we’re not lucky like others. The support people give to the school takes a weight off of our shoulders. It’s a chance for us to become something or somebody. There are people my age who have two jobs. When I tell people about my high school experience, they wish they would have known about Austin Can. The Can doesn’t let you walk out with your diploma, they’re going to help you create those first steps.”

“Honestly, I’ve never felt so stable and happy. Austin Can gave me a confidence to make it through the tough times. In times that I felt like giving up because of the obstacles in my life, Austin Can changed my way of thinking and acting in hard situations. You take what you’ve been through and you take what you’ve seen and you use that to make an impact. I may not be the one to break the chain, but I at least want to be the one to weaken it. I tell my brothers, they can do this – they can make it.”

Kim currently works as a CNA while continuing her coursework to be a Medical Aid. She plans to pursue a degree in nursing and work with children with chronic disease. “Where do I see myself in five years? It’s not so much where I see myself, with an RN degree you can do so much. How I want to feel in five years – I want to be happy. I want to love what I do and want to move forward in that. I just want to be happy really.”


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