Noraida Ortega '21 G'22
Within each of our students is an inspirational story of perseverance and strength, and we are honored to share them with our Bay Path community. This narrative originally appeared as part of Bay Path's #MyPath series on social media.
“I had to grow up pretty quickly. I was three years old when my mom had kidney failure. My grandfather had Alzheimer’s, and I grew up without my father. So, I helped my grandmother a lot. I’d clean up the house and make dinner.
“When I was 17, we moved to Springfield. They told my mom she didn’t have much time left if she stayed in Puerto Rico, so we packed up and moved here for a second opinion. Just my mother, sister and me.
“I arrived at Bay Path when I was 29 years old. My son was around two. In that moment, I was sick of my job. Driving to work, I’d be crying. I needed a change. I had gone to school for criminal justice when I was 20, but I quit. I started to get comfortable making money, and it was just easier to quit.
“I looked up what in the medical field I could do. Bay Path had a five-year program in occupational therapy, and I was like, ‘What is occupational therapy?’ I didn’t have an idea. I found out and said, ‘Let’s go.’ Honestly, I just threw myself into it. I have about a year left. I can’t even believe it. Now, I want my own practice. I’m striving to be the therapist who makes patients say, ‘Uh-uh, I want Noraida. Get me Noraida.’
“When you’re in the middle of it all—getting your degree, being a mom, your mom is sick, you’re working part-time—it’s really difficult to see the progress. I cut my paycheck in half to get my education and start my career. It’s a struggle. I’m a first-generation student, too. Nobody in my family has gone this far into their education. They don’t understand it’s not just about the money. It’s about creating a path that my son, my nieces, my cousins can follow.
“I had plans in Puerto Rico to have this beautiful life, and everything changed. I’d tell someone who’s where I was to make your education nonnegotiable. I had three surgeries, my bills were behind, I had a heartbreak. And my education is what’s going to get me out of the hole. I truly believe that. I’m a better mom and a better person just because I made my education non-negotiable.” -Noraida Ortega '21 G'22 #MyPath