Sarah Keeney and Marisela Flores-Pena

Recorded September 1, 2021 Archived September 1, 2021 38:40 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: lsk002376


Sarah Keeney (47) speaks with her friend and student Marisela Flores-Pena (33) about her path to nursing school and her dreams for the future. Marisela reflects on growing up in an immigrant family, becoming a mother and her determination to get an education and give back to her community.


  • Sarah Keeney
  • Marisela Flores-Pena

Recording Location


Venue / Recording Kit

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Fee for Service


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00:01 Turlock. Arrest today is September 1st 2021. Recording location is Klamath Falls. And my relationship to Sarah is she's my friend, my writing to her and my mentor.

00:15 And my name is Sarah Keeney. Today is September 1st 2021. I am recording in Portland, Oregon and Marisela is a friend and a student and a good person out in the world that I want to talk to you.

00:35 Okay, so

00:38 I wanted to start with a really big question about why you decided to pursue nursing school.

00:51 What was your path? So in 2006, I graduated from high school. My first job ever was Burger King and I worked at Burger King and I knew exactly fast food was not where I wanted to be for the rest of my life. I applied at Pelican point where it's local assisted living facility. And their I noticed the passion that I bet I developed for the geriatric population. I started out as a resident assistant, which that meant that we would get our residents ready for breakfast. We would bring out like, get them ready for the day, bring him down for breakfast while they were having their breakfast going back up to their apartment, setting up their apartment. I'm like, making their bed doing their laundry and, you know, assisted them with their daily living there. I noticed

01:48 How lonely and neglected, a lot of these patients are. And I also noticed that a lot of people.

01:56 All right, I should have had a lot of people, but the people who I worked with, you know, we're just doing the job to do the job. There was really no feelings attached to any of that. Inside SI. I noticed a desperate need of like, people who really cared about caring for others and that would, you know, provide the care that those that those patients.

02:18 Required. I needed and like a family.

02:22 And so that's when I decided that I wanted to go into nursing. And so, I applied or I went into, Community College and I took their CNA 1 course while working there. And then, I also worked part-time or work, another job for a foster home. And the same thing. I noticed that there's, it's desperately needed people who enjoy working with elderly in and do the job for the passion, not just for the p.

03:00 And then when you got to nursing school at a y t and with OHSU, what was like the biggest change like what was the biggest?

03:14 What was the biggest challenge? When you got it? When you started there or something that you were just like the biggest success you've had so far?

03:25 I think the biggest challenges.

03:29 Just trusting that I'm smart enough to do this. I still have to tackle this dream. Since 2006. I got married in 2008, got married had a daughter, took some time off tacos, my goal at me. No, again, taking two classes at a time at the most taking three classes with a full-time job. And so, I think a lot of it is just trusting that I'm smart enough to do this and I'm here. There's a another, this is my car. I feel like this is my calling and I just have to trust that this is

04:03 This is what I want to do. But this testing in myself, I feel like I've definitely been a challenge and believing that I'm smart enough to do this. I think it's one of the biggest thing when I apply for my parents and the first graduate for high school and the first person to attend college. So they really don't understand how I mean, this is a great college to get super, super hard to get into. They don't understand why I've been in school for so long when other people have done this, you know, I'm 34 years and I think that's also going to tell him that. I feel like they don't really understand how to get here and it shouldn't really matter that, you know, like I want my parents to be super proud cuz this is a huge thing, which I know they are, but I don't I just like they don't understand. Tell when I was on.

04:54 When I got accepted into the program, I emailed, I open my email and I was at work, and there was nobody there that I liked about really that strong connection to share it. And I'm so, because of the crazy people wear. They're a lot of the people were at home. And the first person that I thought about to call with my brother who lives in Germany, which time difference and I called him and he was sleeping. I don't, I think it was like three or four over there and so he was sleeping. And again, I didn't really get the response that I was expecting. Like I was in 40 years and crying and he was like, oh congratulations. I'll call you back tomorrow. So I think that stuff but as time has gone by and I studied and you know, I just finished my first day of Nursing and there's no question about it. I'm super proud of all my hard work. I

05:54 Not like I think that they're definitely appreciate a more that I do, you know, this is a great thing and, you know, she's going to care for people then. So I think that definitely is just that's been one of the biggest Rivals for a me that they haven't really understood where I'm coming from her, how much I suffered to get here and our sacrifice. I should say, sacrifice to get you. And then another thing that, you know, I am strong. I am very, what's the word when you are, like, the term in? Like, this is, I know, I have so much to get into this field that I haven't given up. And I don't plan to

06:32 And so tell me about, tell me about your family and and how you like it because, you know, you don't have parents that graduated from high school or college. Like, how did you, how did you like, do that?

06:49 Kamaiyah. Scott here. I want to say it's been more than thirty years ago and they were both illegal and came over and they brought my brother with them, which is my older brother. He is 35 and they brought him over.

07:04 We've left him, ever since then. We did try to move one time. And we move to California, where my brother got involved in gangs. So, my parents have always work in agriculture. And so they worked long hours. I'm out in the field and my brother, and I are pretty much always, we're at home and taking care of ourselves and he started getting involved. I'm, he ended up in prison at the age of 16 child as an adult. And so, seeing how much my amount of hike in the most amount of her but seeing how much

07:40 My parents are separated with that and we had to tell a different present, because after you've been in prison for a certain amount of time, you can't be at that prison for a long time. So we would go visit him all over the place to this different facilities. And just seeing how much they separated. I always said, like what is not what they came here for, you know, they didn't transfer United States to stop worrying. Have their kids be involved in gangs and you know that I'm dedicating themselves to work to give us a better life and that's just kind of praising ourselves and you know, doing our own thing. So that's when I was just like, okay, I want to do something to get me some super proud. Just like them, not really seeing it. I think that's why it affects me.

08:27 I know that my daughters are definitely seen it. I have two daughters. I'm probably almost 13 and my six-year-old little girl. So I am so they still work. My mom right now. She works in Alaska during the summer as she works on a fish.

08:46 Can chemistry and I feel so she works there and my dad try to work over there, but she said that he felt like a slave, it was just the whole summer. Just working non-stop with one day off, which was Fourth of July and dad right now is working in the strawberries, or he'll work in the potato field. And so that's one of my goals to just graduate and be able to help them out and support them. And when they're older by a little house in the back of my house where I'm going to be able to care for them at the kindergarten. My mom was able to graduate. I went to sixth grade and then graduated and their parents had a belief that women were meant to stay at home and care for their children. So they thought she was not able to go to school.

09:38 So when you are and I know you have like an immense amount of determination and drive.

09:45 Did you have any like Role Models, when you were younger, like, teachers or friends? Or did you pull that kind of driving? I'm in high school. I started skipping a lot of school and my parents are always working and then I turn into like a years and I don't know what happened. I think after just entering the medical field like I just turned into a different person and you but I was I was definitely not who I am as a young girl at all. Like I, I can't say that I feel like there is somebody who truly made a huge.

10:39 They've got impact in my life where I wanted to change my things around. I was super young and then I ended up dating this guy who was way older than me and just kind of got caught up in things. I shouldn't have been at the age of 16. So maybe that's when I, I change things around. I had a miscarriage at 16 and I was not doing good at all. And so maybe, maybe there.

11:12 I think once I got married and then I went to college. Cuz I got married at nineteen to started, looking at things different, and hanging out with why I got hired at at Sky lakes and just hanging out with people who, you know, like, I guess influence me to go to school that actually do something and I just hang out with friends and not do anything and to hang out, get in trouble.

11:45 That makes your story even more amazing. I'm so now that you've finished your first year and you're going into your second. What would you tell someone?

11:59 Who's just starting, or who's interested? Even in nursing, Someone Like A Younger. You who doesn't think it's possible. What would you say?

12:09 Say that if I've actually had this, many many times where they asked me like, you know, what did you think about nursing school? And it didn't start out hard because, you know, I was doubting myself because no, and no time. I felt like this was not being where I wanted to be. It was the start of that hard because my dad became sick on the second week of school. He got sick with covid and being the the guest Advocate, the person who interpret for them all the time, the person who they come to you for every single thing, you know, I thought that that pressure. My brother's calling me. I had a brother who lives, who lives at that, time in the Netherlands, one in Germany and one in Arizona, they called me for everything. So they would ask me how my dad was doing. It wasn't looking good for my dad. So that's my nursing school started out rough for me and we ended up getting sick as well. So I just think that what I would tell them

13:09 How many me is that? If you really want this, you have to sit down and kind of?

13:17 Make a connection with yourself and how much you're willing to go through to get to the vehicle. And you know, why are you truly doing this? Are you doing this because of the pay? Or are you doing it because you want to help others? Because if you're doing it for the pay, I would suggest right then and there like look into another, another field.

13:37 This is about how much you're willing to help others. And, you know, they do say that leave things at home early thing. Sorry, at at the door, but a lot of the times you do, you know, you think about your patient or you or you're thinking about what you can do the next day for them to make their better life for their stay better. So I thought I would ever tell people that, you know, just think about is it something you really want to do or is it you're doing it? And then how much are you willing to sacrifice? Because you definitely sacrificed family time. My friends. I really don't know other than my cohort right now. I think that's that's who might really close friends are and they know what you're going through. Even your spouse doesn't really understand because you know that he's not going through the same thing. And so definitely you build a relationship with with new friends that you grow up to. Are you going to be family with? But that, that would be my

14:34 My recommendation to them and you know it and just give it your all and don't doubt yourself and reach out for help if you have a question, no, no, I mean they were there, you know, your instructors, your instructors were there once and there's no dumb questions for that.

14:54 I think that's so important. I think people are often really scared to ask questions. You know, it's like if you don't know, there's probably a bunch of other people that don't know. I can't remember her name right now, but there's Emily at OHSU who helps with like stress and kind of like I had no idea who she was at all. These emails came across and I was in desperate need of that. I was I reached out to her like and I think maybe you gave me her information and, you know, it

15:35 I'm okay. So I want to shift a little bit and talk about language. I know you did a lot of your parents and and sometimes you and I back and forth switch between my terrible Spanish and

15:57 Little bit about what that's like to be doing. Kind of school and home. I don't know. Is, are you raising your kids bilingually school and home in like different languages for school in family? When I was living at home and I was at Mary, I never had to question if I said something wrong because I ate just was so natural in it. You know, we spoke that language at home. We supposed to hang out with my parents, but, you know, it was like, we spoke so much more than that. Like, my brothers and sister. I spoke so much more it with my brothers. Now that I married, my husband speaks very little English. So that's all we speak out in Spanish. And I sometimes I do get frustrated, you know, no matter what, whatever you understood what I said, but with my daughter's, what we do, as we speak a lot of things. So I don't want her babysitter is just so you only speak Spanish. So she speaks a lot more Spanish. My older one, her Spanish is really choppy. So I

16:56 I've learned that it's very important for me to like read to them and you know, so we read a lot and a lot of it is because I also want to extend my language. But yeah, I'm at work. I work with people who speak English and Spanish. So I use a lot of Spanglish, lots of it and I catch myself sometimes. When I'm speaking to him, my friends who don't like that a I throw in a barrel instead of a but, you know, are like things like that by

17:27 Oh, yeah, before I never did have to question it now. I know there's things that I know that I don't say right in. I could correct it and it's okay.

17:36 Never be perfect. Right? So, that's really gotten in. There's a lot of words. I don't know what they are, and I look them up and I try to use it. You know, whatever. I write. I try to use it as they're, all really good right now. I'm reading when I'm at her name, is her name was Hayden. Hayden. Kevin. She passed away from cancer and she was born and raised here in Klamath Falls. And that's the one that I'm ready. Now. I'm thinking about like you go into nursing school. We have to write these big long papers in academic English. How do you feel when you

18:33 Are speaking to your husband all day in Spanish and your kids and it work. And then you have to write this paper in like another. I guess. It's almost a third language, I think. And that's why because I know that my writing skills.

18:50 Are basically the way that I speak and I know I don't speak right? Like there's a lot of things that I know that I might go. You know, like how do I say this? And so when I'm writing and there's many time a lot of the time I have my dictionary in my suorin air is questions. That sometimes I have to go to Google Translate, translate in Spanish and then answer them in Spanish and I I'll pick my husband's been helping next to me like you noticed this word sound better than this one. So, why did in Spanish and then I was like do the Google translate and then I'm kind of make out my English sentence from there and pick out things that don't make sense and things like that. So before I

19:36 Submitted a nice run it by friends from work and then I'll run them by you just to double-check. And then by the time I'm done with this paper, it's definitely not the first. It's not how it's not how I started out with so much in weight and it's weird because a lot of it is what I mean. All of it is my thinking like things that I had already said, but it's so much more enhanced in more, you know, like I just found some more.

20:05 Tell me, I like emotional like all my emotions come through supposed to Face. You know, I try to change some of the words to make it sound like a real good sentence that wasn't translated from Spanish. What I wanted to say, but your words were much better.

20:33 So, I do get pretty bummed out when I, you know, like I'm, I've gotten really good ways, but I think that in my mind, I just I work super, super hard about it like on it. So I want to get like the full point and then when I get a drink or something, I get so upset cuz I'm headed to so many people like, but it's okay.

20:56 Least you're right in your ideas and then written enriched way about how your language skills are going to help you as a nurse, but kind of obviously they will but it's like kind of in this like in Rich way. Like what do you think about your Spanish and English skills and how that will help you how it used to be with me and parents, bring their kids to interpret for them. You know, that they do know the correct words, but they might not know the contents are there or, you know, like the medical term for it, and I feel like a lot of that Medical Care can be lost when you bring your kids in to Enterprise at. So my parents would do it all the time. I would interpret for them. And so then I actually seek out to my

21:56 And I asked her, if it would be okay, if I reached out to 2, like, I don't know. I just a local places to see if I, if there is a way that I could get certified to interpret. And so there was a place in Medford that I reached out to and my work pay for it and I got it. I got certified to interpret for the state of Oregon and the healthcare. So then that was a huge thing because I'm, you know, my my work was now able to also have that under their belt and it looked really, really good on that are like you do on their part. And I definitely also helps me because I got to learn that the medical terminology for things. A lot of the things that I did not know. I learned through them. I took language proficiency test, which I always thought that I was Advanced and it turns out that I was almost, but I think it's

22:56 Show me out a lot because I've been able to help a lot of the, the nurses are the doctors, you know, communicating connect that bridge with a with a patient. And I also think that it helps that I, you know, I grew up.

23:15 Using like the different, what it like, what's the correct word?

23:23 Not to Spanish Castellano, but like Mexican or like, you know, terms that you learned from the streets and stuff because a lot of the patients don't know how to express themselves and then they used to say the word that they know what what is, what is hug the top, how they described it until I know what they're trying to say. And then I interpret over in the medical, in the medical lab by definitely has helped them. I also have educated my employer that translating and interpreting is totally different actually, like speaking for that person. And then translating is when your trunks translating words,

24:08 I like documents and stuff. I thought that, you know, I have patients to bring over from like Mexico interpreting. You can't do that. You did that. That's so cool. I hope you think about that. Adding that I did it for a ride where it where I do have her where I work. But then also I somehow I got a hold of us. It's called me and asked if I would be able to interpret for a local potato shed that they were having problems. And I said, yeah. And so, I got that as a side job, and by doing my side job, I interpreting and going to school. That's how I was able to paper like books and stuff.

25:06 What's good with? What kind of things are? The potato shed, what's happening?

25:17 And I also work in my favor at one point. But at one time I had to excuse myself, cuz I just knew too many people involved, cuz it's such a small community. It was, it was great for them because they were open up and really say what happened but it wasn't good for me because I was like, this is a conflict of interest. Like, you know, I don't want to be in the middle of the night. I actually asked to get dismissed and I was able to show, how do you like when you are in a caring professionals? Just made me think of

25:47 This question. How do you also care for yourself? You know, you always people always give so much like so much heart and so much love and consideration for patients. And how do you make sure that you have enough to give

26:04 So I have learned that self-care is very important, because if you don't have any self care or do anything for yourself, it consumes you, and then you get really stressed out at Bink and you're definitely can't you no care for others. If you're in that my mistake. So what I've done is running, I've taken up running lately here. I've been doing a lot of hiking because of how Smokey it is, which is probably not any better, but I'm just taking time for myself. I do have a really good support system with my husband and with my family and there's times, I thought they pick up my daughters. Stay the night, just for my husband tonight to have a like, a movie night or brass to go hiking. When I am feeling stressed, I speak out and I'll make a, I need to know, I need a break. Also working at the clinic I have, since I've been there for 12 years. I feel like. I mean, I can be totally honest with my supervisor in my boss and I just tell him, I I feel Super Bowl.

27:04 Today, you know, and I work from home or can I do a different thing today? So just I think communication from you has been the best thing for South carus. Just letting people know where I'm at at that moment and knowing it's okay to speak out if I need to.

27:21 That's when he running, has been a blessing for me cuz I don't have to think about anything other than just breathing Runner. I will after Kobe, I feel like after coming to, I am just not in good shape. I feel like my muscles just hurt so much anymore. And so I don't know if it's really like that. Zac will have padding covid or if it's just a mind thing, but I still go out there and it's no longer a matter of like, you know, how did I beat my time? It's a matter of I went out there and I had some kind of stuff care for myself and look how you just dropped into the quality like right like

28:07 Questions.

28:18 Can we finish on like what do you think? What is your greatest success?

28:22 My greatest success definitely had it is where I am. Now. I'm not giving up. Its I think that's the biggest thing because like I told you I started out so I graduated started out with the lowest classes writing reading math and just not giving up and even though I mean it took me years to get where I am and there was many classes that expired that I had to retake started out as I got to discuss assistant at Pelican Point. Went to school, did my CNA one and then skylake-x offered a program that was not required, but they paid for it. So I went ahead and just did it. That was a CNA to program. What you could do a little bit more than to see any after that took a break had a baby and then went back to school again. Tackled more to three classes at a time with a full-time job all the time because my husband doesn't have a Social Security. His status here is not legal.

29:22 Do I always have to maintain a full-time status? So I could carry on with the health insurance for the family? And so that's why I didn't have, you know, a lot of people ask me like why did it take you so long to get here and I work part-time or go back to her go down to Sacramento. I didn't have that and so did my CNA to hide a baby, took a break, tackle it again and started out and then crossed over to a medical assistant. And then Medicare said all medical assistance need to be certified. And so then again stylex paid for it, so why not do it and became a certified medical assistant in the whole long. Of time. I also have volunteered. And so I currently volunteer for hospice. I volunteer for the warming center for the homeless. There is like a little group type things that they go around. Like the cemeteries and clean.

30:22 And so I also do that when I can. And so I'm I just think like not giving up and being aware of being where I am. Now. It's definitely been. I mean that's my pride and joy that I haven't given up. And yeah, I didn't stop my having babies. My husband wanted to have any. Okay, let's have a baby but I need to tackle. This is just because I know that I have so much to get like this is my cash. And I you know, yes, I do have rough days, but I learned from those days and yes, I get you all that sometimes by patience and I understand I understand your frustration and you know, so I like this is my pride and joy, this is my huge accomplishment, just not giving up and and being where I am and getting accepted. I do hear that. There's a lot of people who have applied for a witch at Orchard View like five, six times and just also knowing that I got in on the first try, you know, it makes me super bad.

31:21 Well, we're burying, we're very lucky to have you because you have all that determination those skills. And so I really enjoy working with all of the nursing students because I feel like there's such a it's a, it's a, it's a caring, like teaching is like a caring profession and people want other people to succeed. And there's so much empathy and trying to make the world better through their, their care and they're a lot of advocating to rain during this whole

31:59 What is it a trajectory? That that's something we also had, I guess it was like a, a big moment in my life. Also. I took a triage call and, you know, I just noticed little things in the background that just didn't see. Maya frustrated, father at cussing. You know, when mom is worried. This little kid won't stop crying. She had been at work, the whole night shift and just little things that I was like putting together. And I was like, okay, so I have my mom pick. The father's don't really have a lot of patience for kids. It just little things like that that I was picking up. And again, it's probably because I've learned so much from everything that I've done. And I had this gut feeling that something did not see my and I want to talk to my boss about it. I said you something doesn't seem right and she said, well, if you have that gut feeling you go for it, so then I asked this person, like, you need to go.

32:59 Emergency room if something's going on with your, with your kid and

33:04 You know, they had me and then I checked in they never to check into that emergency room. So then I called the second time and I said, no, I'm very concerned if you don't show up within 30 minutes. I'm calling DHS and you know, I know it's just you know, what, I was getting myself into. I just had that gut feeling like something's going on. Well, they did go to the emergency room and it turned out that the the child had a stress fracture that they had. It was a spiral. Sorry. I spiral fracture of one of their their little and it turned out that the father hacker you had been so frustrated that that was the way that they you know, he's the only thing that he knew how tired I don't know. But I was able to say that kids like they remove that that kid from there from that home and you know it from that whatever the situation why is there the whole reason why they remove that kid from the home. And so I also felt like

33:58 You know, just having that critical thinking, skill going with your guy. I mean, I didn't know if you know, maybe it was nothing but at that moment I had to be an advocate for Reno for that little kid that was not able to say what was going on or why was, you know, why were they crying? Uncontrollably? In mom was not able to stop at cry. So I think that that also just, I don't know. I just totally love where I am right now in my life. And I feel like this is where I need to be in ya, but I definitely want to go into it when I graduate.

34:35 Doing just the fact that you are here and I mean, I'm thinking like nursing school in a pandemic to little kids, that's long past with all, you know, with everything kind of stacked against you a little bit, you know, like you know who I am. I am determined. I have passion. There's something that I want to do. I have so much to give him. I'm going to hang in there.

35:26 Anything else? So thank you so much for being the first nursing student that I could do a storycorps with, because I learned some things about, you died, new song. I'm an open, but you asked me and now, two more years and then your, are you going to pursue Advanced Studies? Do you think you're going to take me to work a little bit of?

36:06 Advanced practice would, you know, it's out there? Let me talk about having another baby and it's already started to you. Remember that? You told me and I'm like, yeah. I'm not there anymore.

36:31 Play, no more breaks. I am in and no more breaks to have a kid.

36:44 Can I ask a quick question since we have like 2 minutes or so your daughters and it sounds like you're so proud of them and know their accomplishments and you're such a great role model for them from him, all that you've been through. Do you have any hopes or dreams or your daughters to see? I hope that they see me like how much I've gone for you and that I bet they're inspired. Like, don't give up. If you want something you go for it, work hard for it. You know, nobody's going to give you anything and if they're going to give it to you. It's probably not worth it. I always tell them I I tried not to like be like you see me, you know, and now I try to do it in a way that they do kind of like sense. We go to that. Abby every Monday we go to the library and because I don't have that great language skill every Monday. We go to the library and they get one but I don't want get the book for one day out of the week.

37:44 But the other one, I mean I try to encourage them to read more in the sixth and their language.

37:56 May I tell him I'm okay to you either do this or you do that but you're doing something during the summer and so little things that I didn't get to do. I tried, I like implemented but not in a way where you have to do it because I didn't get the opportunity to, but just, you know, just so they they get to grow in a way that I wasn't able to see all of this and have dreams. And one of them must have it to be. A firefighter that I will not, she's really good at are so she wants to be a tattoo artist.

38:35 All right. Well, I'll go ahead and stop the recording.