Monica received her associate degree in psychiatric technology and dance and will continue her studies at Cypress College in the Registered Nursing program to prepare for an eventual master’s degree in psychiatric nursing. She strives to spread awareness about mental illness and the human condition, and enjoys spending time volunteering.
Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? What are your interests? What is your story?
I was born in Los Alamitos, California, and attended Los Alamitos High School. I was always active; I did taekwondo as a kid, then in high school I joined a club soccer team. I always took honors and AP courses while maintaining a good GPA. I was always interested in psychology and the human mind, and I also love to dance and often perform in different venues.
Why did you choose Cypress College?
Cypress College offers a convenient location as it is close to both my home and work. Additionally, it offers a great education and value for my money, as well as many services and licensure programs that are not offered at other locations. It has helped open many pathways to brighten my future.
What have you been involved in at Cypress College? How has your path unfolded?
I began my studies at Cypress College believing that I would only be a psychology major; however, after taking a few dance classes, I discovered a second passion and chose to pursue it as a second major. Similarly, I happened upon the Psychiatric Technician Program, which opened many more paths in my future career goals.
I will receive associate degrees in both psychology and dance, as well as my psychiatric technology license, which will help me to attain future personal, academic, and career goals.
What are you most passionate about? Why?
I am passionate about spreading awareness about both mental health and diversity in each individual. Being able to be part of a psychiatric program, I was able to visit many mental hospitals and developmental institutions. This not only allowed me to learn more about mental illnesses, but also become aware of the stigma and labeling that exist for these people.
My passion is to spread awareness about not only the mentally ill, but all people. I hope to help educate people to remove stigmas and labels of others. I am also passionate about helping people as much as I can. I have volunteered my time at the Boys and Girls Club teaching dance to kids who were not expected to be able to dance. I also volunteered training individuals who had health impairments and could not afford a fitness coach. I am always looking for ways in my community to help out in any way I can.
Who are the faculty and staff that have helped you get where you are today?
The faculty at Cypress is usually very helpful; however, three professors went above and beyond to help me and everyone around them.
Professor Maha Afra pushed and motivated me to pursue my goals, and has been there every step of the way to help me achieve them. She is always very well-informed and became my mentor. Additionally, she kept her office doors open to all of us in a welcoming environment with lots of pillows where we would go when life was overwhelming. She also reminded us of our self worth and continued to motivate us to achieve.
Professor Christina Johannsen is another faculty member who always made time to listen to all her students and really tried to help us succeed. She was very caring and helped everyone who needed it. She helped me see that anyone can become anything they set their minds to, and I knew that I could always rely on her vast knowledge and her keen way with words.
Finally, Professor Jaime Ramos helped me figure out my career plan and motivated me to pursue it. He always answered my career questions honestly and was always very genuine. He helped me establish career goals and ways to achieve them.
What are your immediate plans after completing your studies at Cypress College (at your transfer institution, in the workforce, etc.)?
I plan to stay at Cypress and enter the Registered Nursing Program. After transferring from Cypress College, I plan to attend Cal State Long Beach and enter their Psychiatric Nursing Program in order to receive a master’s degree and become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. I hope to one day become a college professor and share my acquired knowledge the way Professors Afra, Johannsen, and Ramos did for me and motivate other students to move forward with their goals.
What are your long-term goals? What do you aspire to?
I aspire to become a college professor, as well as open a dance therapy studio. I am a dancer for Maha and Company, Professor Afra’s dance company, and I aspire to continue dancing in this company that helps spread cultural awareness through movement.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud of being able to take 18 units, be part of a dance company, and have a job all
while paying for my education. I won an award for being one of only three students to maintain straight A’s throughout the Psychiatric Technician Program and my other courses. It was not easy, and I had many sleepless weeks, but it was worth every bit of effort.
What one bit of advice would you give to current and future Cypress College students?
Take advantage of everything Cypress College has to offer, from financial help, to all the licensure programs available. Oftentimes, community colleges have a bad stigma; however, it is definitely the smart route as they offer more help both financially and educationally.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I wish the best of luck to everyone. Hard work and dedication always pay off. I wouldn’t have been so successful without the dedicated faculty and staff at Cypress College, and I am very grateful. Furthermore, I would like to thank everyone who I have had the pleasure of meeting at Cypress as they all played a role in helping me achieve some of my goals.