Graduating Student Navigates Language Barriers, Loss Student Spotlight
Two years ago, on the day after Thanksgiving, Almira Javier and her family were joking around during breakfast when her grandfather had a heart attack at the table.
His sudden passing was a devastating blow to Javier and her family whose move to Valencia in 2014 was made possible thanks to his family-based immigration petition.
“He was my inspiration,” said the 19-year-old who was born and raised outside of Manila in the Philippines.
During the brief time Javier lived with her grandfather, the two became very close.
“He was diabetic and weak,” said Javier, who administered his insulin shots because her mother was afraid of needles. “He would say, ‘Oh my gosh, you have very soft hands. You are a natural!’”
Javier, who had always been interested in healthcare, took every chance to ask questions to the nurses who cared for her grandfather.
Losing her grandfather was especially challenging for Javier, who was also struggling with adapting to her new life in America.
“Making friends was hard,” said Javier who was 14 when she started attending Hart High School. “I thought being a new kid in an American school would be just like in ‘Mean Girls’ and it was.”
Although she had studied English in the Philippines, Javier hardly had the chance to practice and spoke with an accent.
“I was bullied,” said Javier. “I realized people were using me to do homework and errands. It was a bummer.”
Fortunately, Javier started making friends and things started clicking into place. Javier started thinking about going to college.
“My parents saw potential in us and wanted a better future for us,” said Javier.
“During my first week at College of the Canyons, I was freaking out and overwhelmed,” recalled Javier, who sought the help and guidance of her FYP counselor, Tony Law.
“I went to him every week,” said Javier. “He was so patient with me and gave me reassurance and told me about great on-campus resources like The Learning Center.”
Javier also credits COC English professor Alexandra Dimakos with helping her transition to college life as a first-generation American.
“She taught me that it’s ok to ask questions and make mistakes,” said Javier, who was enrolled in Dimakos’s First-Year Experience 100 class. “She recommended I watch television shows with closed captioning so I can improve my English and listen to podcasts.”
Javier took her advice and began progressing in her English coursework.
While attending COC, Javier worked the evening shift at Marshalls and volunteered more than 200 hours at the Definitive Observation Unit at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.
When asked how she managed to juggle it all, Javier laughs.
“I don’t know, but I had lots of support from my parents,” said Javier.
This summer, Javier will be applying for a coveted spot in the college’s competitive nursing program. She has already received a $500 LaVerne Harris Memorial scholarship, which she hopes to apply to her nursing studies.
Her goal is to become a registered nurse in gerontology, a decision inspired by her grandfather.
“Everything I do,” said Javier, “I do it for him.”
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