Faith. Phlebotomy. Spanish. Marissa Ramirez has overcome the obstacles in her path and has a plan to combine what she knows to make a difference in Central America's most impoverished country.
The Wheatfield resident graduated from Ivy Tech Community College in Valparaiso in May with an associate's degree in liberal arts with a focus in Spanish and a phlebotomy certificate.
Phlebotomists are trained to draw blood from a live person or animal for tests and transfusions. Phlebotomists are trained in a certification program with a practical training component.
Ramirez plans to go to college for two more years to become an ultrasound technician. While this could lead to a higher-paying position in the U.S., Ramirez plans to go to Nicaragua to open a women's clinic.
Ramirez has gone to Nicaragua eight times for missionary work since her first visit with family at age 13. She works with Chosen Children's Ministry, which provides humanitarian aid and works with church communities in Nicaragua.
Ramirez said the country has several needs, including education and health care. Many women become pregnant at ages as young as 14.
In her journey to her dreams, Ramirez has had to navigate through her share of life's unexpected challenges.
Soon after Ramirez graduated from high school in 2008, she had her daughter Sophia at age 19, and was living with her then-husband. At the same time, Ramirez was taking college courses at the College of DuPage in Illinois.
In 2010, Ramirez was laid off from her job as a bilingual aide at the Rensselaer School Corp. In 2012, she separated from her husband.
"I was in school, working and became a single mom all at once," Ramirez said. "I never questioned finishing school, even when times were tough; I knew I had to finish. No matter how rough it got, I just slept less and studied more."
During her three years as a college student, Ramirez was working full time and taking care of Sophia with help from her mother. Ramirez advised that for single mothers, it may be a challenge now, but pursuing higher education will pay off in the long run.
"If you get a degree now, you'll have to work less jobs and less hours in the future," she said. "You have to make sacrifices to get a good job later on."
Ramirez now works at Porter Regional Hospital as a medical assistant phlebotomist. For Ramirez, the best part is having more time to spend with Sophia on favorite activities such as going to the beach and seeing movies.
"Having my foot in the hospital door has opened up so many possibilities," Ramirez said.
Right now, Ramirez is saving up and networking with medical professionals to make her clinic in Nicaragua a reality.
"Success for me is finding peace in life, getting to the point where you can breath easy — not constantly trying to stay afloat," Ramirez said. "It's having happiness with my family."