Paula Nekolai Hernandez is a force to be reckoned with. She exudes fire and passion, moulding it into the drive that has taken her from the floor of her parent’s office to the top of her class. Paula sits in her chair, wrapped in an air of nervous confidence. Lifting her eyes with a smile, she begins, “I grew up on a southern island in the Philippines called Mindanao.”
As the only child of hard-working parents, Paula grew up knowing she wanted to have a career where she could help people. “My dad worked at the airport and my mom worked for the national airline in customer service.” Paula witnessed her parents put in long hours to support their family. “When I was too young to stay home alone, my parents would take me to the office. I would spend hours there while they worked. I felt loved.”
LOVE OF FAMILY
When Paula Nekolai was a teen, her parents moved to Canada. “I chose to stay in the Philippines to finish school.” She was able to do this because of the tremendous support of her extended family. “My aunts and uncles would come and make sure I was doing alright. Some would drive from hours away.”
With a supportive family and the value of hard work instilled from a young age, Paula finished high school, and went on to get her Bachelor of Psychology. “I didn’t always have the highest grades, but I was always known as the hard-working one, a skill I inherited from my family.”
After graduation, Paula followed her parents and moved to Canada. It was not until she began working at a university campus restaurant, surrounded by students and their thirst for knowledge, that her dream of helping people was rekindled. “It took me time to realize that I was waiting for a miracle. If I wanted to make my dream a reality, now was the time to pursue my goal of helping others.” When Paula learned about Stenberg College’s Medical Lab Assistant (MLA) program, she knew she had found her path.
FINDING HER PASSION
In the MLA program, Paula discovered a diverse, hands-on career that had a direct and positive impact in the lives of patients. “I love that as an MLA, you don’t do the same thing every day. It really cemented my desire to follow this career path and support people.”
When she first moved to Canada, Paula had fears that many new immigrants share. “I wanted to find success, but I was so scared that I was going to be stuck in a mediocre job. I am not mediocre. I knew I could help others in a positive way.”
Her caring nature, intelligence, and drive to help was recognized by both her instructors and her peers. Her classmate, Christopher, remembers, “Paula was always first to try new procedures and caught on quickly, allowing her to help others who were struggling. If you needed a partner to practice on, Paula was willing to be that partner. If you missed a class, Paula would always share her notes. She embraced everyone and left nobody out.” So passionate about the career, Paula worked hard and achieved a remarkable 97% grade point average.
In the MLA program, Paula thrived. Rajni Naidu, MLA Department Head, remembers her fondly. “Paula’s sincerity for her profession is evident in her compassion and kindness towards her patients and coworkers. Even when a shift was challenging, she weathered it all with her winning smile. I am proud that she is a Stenberg graduate and that she is now my coworker.” Paula’s drive paid off. She was hired at Surrey Memorial Hospital shortly after her program ended and now helps others every day.
JUST THE BEGINNING
Paula Nekolai is not stopping here. Becoming a Medical Lab Assistant is only Paula Nekolai is not stopping here. Becoming a Medical Lab Assistant is only the first stop on her health care journey. Like so many Stenberg College graduates, Paula Nekolai no longer sets limits for herself. With plans to pursue further education in the medical field, she is excited for what lies ahead. “This is not the end. Nothing is impossible. There is always a way to achieve your dreams.”
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