DSF Scholar Serves on Front Lines While Finishing College Degree

When DSF Scholar Maria Mendoza-Armendariz isn’t serving the community at the STRIDE Community Health Center as a patient navigator, she can be found at home, spending time with family or studying for her final round of exams. As a senior at the University of Colorado Denver, Maria balances a full course load while working full-time on the front lines through the coronavirus crisis.

“I’m a patient navigator at the clinic,” shares Maria. “I check-in the patients and get information about their background to better understand their needs. I provide assistance while applying for Medicaid, or to connect kids or moms with the help they need.”

Protecting family while serving the community

Though the position is rewarding, Maria says she must take precautions to ensure her family is not exposed to health risks she could encounter at the clinic.

“I have to take a shower before I talk to anybody or touch anybody at home,” Maria explains. “At first I was wondering if I should still be working at the clinic. We have a lot of kids in our family, and I didn’t want to expose them. But I pushed through—I knew I needed to keep helping.”

The greater good

Maria, with the rest of the Class of 2020, will not cross the stage at graduation to receive her diploma. While Maria says the dramatic changes brought on by the coronavirus crisis are upsetting, but she’s glad that large events have been canceled for the sake of the greater good.

“We’ve worked so hard and a lot of us won’t be able to get our diplomas on stage in front of everybody,” shares Maria. “Even though we can’t do that, we have to think about all the lives we’re saving by canceling the event.”

A first-generation achievement with multi-generational impact

Instead, Maria is celebrating what means the most during this unprecedented time: family.

“It’s about the little things,” says Maria. “Being a first-generation college student has come with a lot of pressure, but also a lot of pride. Making my parents proud has been so rewarding. That’s why I keep pushing myself.”