All my life I dreamed of becoming a registered nurse.

I am 63 years old and was raised in a traditional, protective Italian family. At 16, I told my dad I wanted to go to nursing school. He said, "I don't want you living away from home." At that time nurses' training in my town required that I live at the hospital. I accepted his answer and tucked my dream away in my heart.

I married at a young age, raised three great children, and worked as a secretary, which was not satisfying to me. My dream of becoming a registered nurse was always with me. Since I was a child, I have been fascinated with the human body and how it functions. I read voraciously all my life about medical subjects.

In 1998 my daughter had a baby. She invited me to be in the delivery room with her. Her nurse was a wonderful woman my age who gave me tiny tasks to do while my daughter was in labor. She asked if I was a nurse. When I answered no, she asked, "Do you work in the health-care field?" Again, I answered no. She told me, "You're a natural," and I admitted, "I've always dreamed of being a nurse."

"It's never too late," she said. "Go to school now."

The very next day I went to Maria College in Albany, New York, to talk with an admissions officer. I was very nervous because I'd never been to college and was not sure I would succeed. Even though I was unaware of my potential and not very confident, I felt an overwhelming sense of wonder and possibility. I signed up for two prerequisite courses and anxiously awaited their beginning. Meanwhile, I was working at the New York State Senate. However, just the act of signing up for courses set my destiny on track. I retired early from the Senate and went to school fulltime.

In my heart I began to sense the real possibility that my dream could become a reality. It was the first time in my life that I thought, "I can really do this."

That was the beginning of a three-year odyssey that ended in my graduation as a registered nurse from Maria College in May 2002. At the graduation ceremony, I won an award for the highest average in my class (3.9). Walking across the stage I wanted to shout, "If I can do this, anyone can!" It was the most satisfying, wonderful, ecstatic experience of my life.

I loved everything about the learning process. I learned volumes about myself. I learned that I can do anything I set my mind to and can accomplish any goal. All one needs is determination, desire, interest, and love of what you're doing. I had lots of support from my husband, children, and grandchildren. They were my cheering section.

Maria College also offers early childcare. There is a pre-k and kindergarten on campus. My granddaughter was enrolled in both classes for two of the years I was there. We went to Maria together. She told everyone she knew that she and her Grammy were in school together.

I am now a labor and delivery nurse, which was also part of my dream. I am privileged to be present at the beginning of life. For me there is no experience like that of seeing a complete, perfect human being arrive in this world. Nursing is a fine tool for my nurturing, mothering gifts. I am nurse not only to my patient, but also to her family. Introducing this tiny new life to the family circle is unexplainably gratifying.

To bring this continuing story full circle, the nurse who gave me the inspiration to go to nursing school is the very nurse who trained me as a labor and delivery nurse at my place of employment.

I hope this story inspires those who read it. Nothing is impossible when you desire to make a dream come true.

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