by Arel Roxas

Remember Your Why

Good morning everyone! Before I begin, I want to personally thank the families and friends that came out today to share this special moment with us. Without your years of support and encouragement, we would not be here today getting ready to receive our pins, and later this afternoon, our diplomas. We are future nurses because of you and for that we thank you.

For those of you who do not know me, my name is Arel Roxas but I will likely be remembered by my peers as the Disney princess, Ariel. You’re probably wondering why I would allow such a nickname to be encouraged by my peers but let me explain. At first, I didn’t like the idea of being remembered as the red-headed sea princess, but as time when on I started to realize how truly fitting the nickname was.

For those of you who do not know the story of the Little Mermaid, let me give you a brief run down. She’s a princess who decided she didn’t want to live in the ocean any longer and so she ventured into a new world. She wanted to be a part of that world so much that she was willing to leave everything she had ever known.

My story is rather similar, minus the evil octopus, all the singing, and the Greek god representations. When I graduated from high school, I decided to go where I would be most comfortable because unlike most of my peer who were excited for college, the process was just another anxiety inducing moment in my unpredictable life. I knew going to a small community college would help ease my mind because it was close to home and I would see familiar faces. Like Ariel’s ocean, this was my norm – but after two years of living in the norm, I decided to take a leap of faith because there was so much more to school than just “doing” and “getting by.” Though my community college gave me a great education, I never felt a true sense of belonging. I kept to myself, sat away from everyone else in lectures. I grew tired of this daily routine and sought to find more in my college experience.

During a school fair at the college, I stumbled upon Rockhurst University and Research College of Nursing. I was told of an opportunity to transfer and attend one of the most distinguished nursing schools in Kansas City. After receiving more information, I started to enjoy the idea of changing pace but with the large change in pricing, I had a difficult decision to make.

Financially, I did not think it was going to be possible for me and my family to attend a private school. Fortunately, I received a scholarship from Phi Theta Kappa and the HCA Forgiveness Scholarship. These two awards gave me the opportunity to pursue my nursing degree here at Research College of Nursing.

Emotionally, this was a big deal. It was a fresh start but with any new beginnings, I knew it would be difficult. I began attending in Fall of 2015. At first, I doubted my decision because it was difficult for me to make connections during the first couple semesters. But as my schedule began to sync up with other nursing students, I began socializing and finally started to feel comfortable. It felt good to meet people who were pursuing the same degree for the same reasons I was. We talked about our experiences, and why we chose nursing, and I felt included.

Soon after, I built enough confidence to nominate myself as President of the Student Government Association. I chose to pursue the position because I wanted to enhance the student culture at Research College of Nursing. Nursing school is already difficult so I wanted to help create a culture where students were welcomed and felt a part of this school. After two years, I can proudly say we have created a school environment that will continue to build lasting relationships among faculty, staff, and peers.

As a whole, transferring was a challenging decision but it helped me overcome my fear of the unknown. Not knowing what will happen next had always kept me from leaving my “safe-zone.” Predictability is something I’ve always sought because of how unpredictable my life has been. When I was young, my family moved to American from the Philippines in hopes of a brighter future. Unfortunately, my mom was unable to come to America with us due to marital laws enforced at the time. We had only been living in the United States for a year when we got the news that my mom had suffered a heart attack. We flew back to the Philippines as soon as we could, but by the time we arrived, my mom had already fallen into a coma and was considered brain dead. My dad had to then make the difficult decision to take her off of life support.

This wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did. My mom was supposed to watch me and my siblings grow up, graduate, get married, and be there when we started our own families. Ever since my mom passed, I knew that I would somehow find my way into the medical field and that my mom would be my biggest motivator. She helped me realize that this unpredictable event was what made me choose nursing, so why should I run from it? I began embracing the unpredictable and that is how I’ve ended up here.

Taking this huge leap of faith not only helped me further pursue my passion for nursing, but it also allowed me to grow my skills of professionalism and leadership by giving me multiple opportunities. I attended National Student Nurses Association conventions in Dallas, San Diego, and in Orlando, where I got to spend time with my favorite Disney princess at Disney World. And I joined the Missouri Student Nurses Association as their Public Relations Director. During my term in this position, I was able to attend Nurse Advocacy Day in Jefferson City to see how nurses make an impact on legislation. The experiences I have had would not have been possible if I did not attend Research College of Nursing, and if the faculty did not instill the mission of professionalism, provision of safe, quality care, and commitment to excellence in their teachings.

2018 Kansas City nursing graduates

Looking back at my experiences here, I will always remember starting our nursing courses second semester sophomore year. I’ll remember walking into the auditorium for the first day of Pathophysiology and seeing the room filled front to back with students geared up and ready to learn the knowledge and skills needed to care for others. That first semester was rough, and it was a true testament of our dedication and commitment to nursing. It was hard and we struggled, and some, like myself, hung on by a thread at times. But I believe I made it through because of the support from personal motivations and you all, my classmates.

I believe the encouraging relationships we build among each other was so important to have, especially in nursing school. We were able to help each other work through difficult concepts and theories. We held each other accountable, on track, and most importantly instilled confidence in one another when we didn’t get that 75% on an exam. Nursing school has not been easy. We’ve all had to face our fears and conquer our unpredictabilities, and now on this day we are victors.

However, as we graduate, we will continue to be placed in situations that make us uncomfortable, and we will run into to our fears time and time again, but we much remember that we are built differently from others. We have the critical thinking, the professionalism, the leadership skills, and the healing hands and hearts that Research College of Nursing and Rockhurst University has cultivated within us. Any fear we have, whether it’s the fear of failure, or the fear of not being good enough, just remember why you started in the first place. Keep your “why” close to your heart, and reflect on it when times get tough. My “why” is my mom and my family. I recall a situation when I was one exam away from failing and wanted to give up, but I thought about my mom and my family and it pushed me to keep moving forward. I thought about the sacrifices my dad has made and the hardship my family has faced to get me to this position. I knew I made it too far to fail. Now, I stand before you, ready to receive my pin, and conquer the world.

My parting words to you all is this: When you find yourself faced with an unpredictable situation, do not back down. Instead, carry yourself with confidence, knowing that any situation you face can be overcome. I also encourage you to always remember why you became a nurse in the first place. This will surely keep you driven and inspire you in all your endeavors.

Before I conclude, I would like to take a moment to personally thank all those who have helped me through nursing school. Without your words of encouragement and wisdom, I would not be here today. First, Professor Pearson: Thank you for encouraging me after my first Foundations exam and telling me that one bad test did not mean I will be a bad nurse or fail nursing school. Thank you Professor Prichard for making the most complicated concepts easy to understand. I would not have passed Pharmacology if it weren’t for you. To Professor Cooper, I thank you for spending so much time with me outside of class to help improve my testing skills. I will continue using those skills when it comes to the NCLEX. Professor Chang, I thank you for pushing me beyond my limits during nursing school and adult health clinical. I learned so much from you, and you helped me think more critically about my patients. Professor Foley, thank you for bringing out the confidence in me during my pediatric rotation. I was so afraid to take care of little ones because I didn’t think I would be good enough, but you helped prove me wrong. Professor Mahley, thank you for all that you’ve done for the senior class. If it were not for your dedication to our success, we would be unprepared for the NCLEX, unprepared for job interviews, and unprepared for the real world of nursing. Dr. Chrisman, thank you for being so thorough with capstone. It was my last clinical rotation and you made sure I got everything I needed to succeed. Finally, Amanda Gray. I thank you for the years of guidance and leadership. You are the reason I chose to pursue so many leadership roles as a nursing student. You have made me the leader that I never thought I would be. For two years you have mentored me, and I thank you for all your kind and empowering words.

To my fiancé, who spent so many long nights helping me cram for my exams. You were my saving “grace” during nursing school. You’ve kept me sane and pushed me to be the best student I could be. Lastly, I thank me class for allowing me to address you all on this special day and allowing me to be “part of your world.”