It had been about 30 years since Veronica Ramirez last stepped into a classroom. So, in the spring of 2020, as she took her first tour through UEI College’s Garden Grove campus with an eye toward enrolling in its Medical Billing and Insurance Coding (MBIC) program, she struggled to envision herself as a student.
“I was iffy,” she said. “It looked like young people just doing the program. I’m going to be 50, and I thought this wasn’t going to work for me.”
But, she had a voucher that promised to cover a good chunk of her educational costs. She had earned it through her previous job, and it was set to expire in two weeks. It was now or possibly never.
“I gave it a chance,” Veronica said. “They assured me the program is for everyone, not just for young people. And, I saw they helped with getting my high school diploma, which motivated me more.”
Once enrolled, Veronica put her all into each class. Even through some early struggles, the support she received from UEI’s faculty as well as from her family at home kept her motivated to not only overcome the challenges, but succeed as a model student within the program.
By graduation in early 2021, Veronica had earned straight-A’s, become a school ambassador, spent time within the campus work study program, and had received an official job offer from the urgent care clinic where she completed her externship.
Today, she continues to work in the same position – one she says she really enjoys.
“I love it. I get to learn something new every day – new quotes, new procedures every day. You would never think I would be able to keep all that in my head,” Veronica said.
UEI Gave Her the Chance She Needed
Veronica was born in Mexico and moved with her family to Santa Ana, CA when she was 10 years old. Around 10th grade, she quit high school, married young, and started a family.
Through the years, she worked a variety of labor jobs while also focusing on raising her four children. As her children grew older, she accepted a position as an activity supervisor at a local school, where she worked for six years before suffering an on-the-job injury.
“When I got injured, they couldn’t give me my job back, so they gave me a voucher to go get trained for another career since they couldn’t help me,” Veronica said. “It was good for a full year.”
She held onto that voucher for months not knowing exactly where or how to use it, nor fully deciding which direction she wanted to go in life. But, Veronica knew she wanted to earn her high school diploma – she’d pushed her kids to graduate school and pursue an education, so it was only right she would do the same – and she knew the voucher was her chance to improve her future.
So, with just days left before her voucher expired, she contacted UEI College in Garden Grove and she felt this could be her final opportunity to make a move.
“They gave me the chance I needed,” Veronica said. “They said if you need extra help with your homework, you can come and your teacher will help you. And, after you’re done with this, you’re going to be so grateful. It’ll help you find a job and give you a big advantage. They really helped me with everything.”
Education & Success is “Good for the Soul“
Veronica admits to nearly giving up during the first week of school. After three decades, being back at school took some getting used to, but the support she received from the faculty as well as her family kept her motivated and confident that she could overcome this hurdle.
“They said it was your turn, and I said you guys are right,” she said of her adult children. “They were so proud of me and would always tell me that every day for going back.”
Despite excelling through all of her classes, nerves once again started getting the better of Veronica when she approached the externship portion of the program. She said UEI Senior Career Services Specialist Aracely Caballero helped calm her and put her in the right mindset.
“I was so afraid, but [Aracely] said, ‘No, don’t worry. You’re going to be OK,’” Veronica said. “’It’s another part of your learning. They will teach you how to do the stuff you’ve been learning about in class. It’s just part of the learning experience.’ That made me feel so much better.”
It also set her on a path toward making a positive impression during her externship. The clinic at which she worked offered her a full-time position, which she started the day immediately after her hours were completed.
“Veronica was a highly energetic student who was not only driven and dedicated, but passionate about being here in school every single day,” Aracely said. “Veronica never missed a day, was never late. Her hunger to succeed was noticeable throughout the campus.”
Having earned that full-time positon so quickly, Veronica said, is the ideal conclusion to a whirlwind year that began with such uncertainty. Having completed her educational journey, Veronica said she would absolutely recommend a similar path for other adults – even ones who may feel a little too old to go back to school.
“I would tell them that it’s never too late,” she said. “It’s good for your soul, even after so many years of putting it off. You just feel accomplished.”