Lenci Crespo always wanted to have a career in the medical field, but she put it off to raise her kids. In 2022, when her custody of her kids was threatened, she moved quickly to prove just how capable she is.
It felt like a gut punch when Lenci learned that after years of no contact, her ex decided to seek custody of their children. Her two older daughters were old enough to choose which parent they wanted to stay with, but her son’s future would be decided by the courts.
After a conversation with her attorney, Lenci decided she needed to go to school to get a stable career to put herself in the best light possible for the judge.
“When I was little, I always dreamed of being a nurse,” Lenci said. “Every time I have gone to the hospital, I always feel like I want to be there helping people. One of my favorite nurses, I wanted to be like her. I liked the way she treated people.”
Despite Lenci’s dreams, she had always struggled in school. Now she had the motivation to try again.
‘YOU CAN DO THIS’
Before she could begin classes, Lenci had to pass an entrance exam. Right away she struggled but she also persevered.
“I didn’t even pass the test in the beginning to get started,” Lenci said. “I went with Edwin Sanchez, my admissions specialist, and studied and studied for a month more, with him telling me, ‘You’ve got this, you’ve got this.’ Finally, I passed that test. He looked at me and was like, ‘You can do this.’ ”
Edwin said he knew from that moment that Lenci was going to do great in the program.
“She failed the test to do the high school program twice, but she kept coming constantly, daily, until she finally did it on her own,” he said. “She was so dedicated.”
Once in the program, things were much easier. Lenci loved her class and was able to pick up on the skills. Then she got the worst news. About halfway through the program, a judge awarded custody of her son to his father and he was moved out of state. Her world crumbled.
‘IT OPENED MY EYES’
The next day, Lenci visited the campus and stopped by Edwin’s office.
“I told him this is it, I’m not going back to school,” she said. “I need to get to work so I can get a better lawyer and fight for my son.”
Edwin let her go in the moment but gave her a call the next day to check in.
“He called me, and he was like, ‘Lenci, finish school,’ ” Lenci said. “He said, ‘You’re really close. The judge is not going to like that you dropped out of school. I know I don’t feel your pain as a mother, but you are so close to finishing.’ I knew he was right. I had suffered since the beginning. He said, ‘You suffered since the beginning and you’re suffering to the end. You have to keep up.’ ”
Thinking back to that first month of just trying to enroll in the program, Edwin knew how dedicated Lenci was. As a former trade college graduate, he also knew how valuable a good education could be for her life.
The next day Lenci sat down with other staff on the campus and the response was the same.
“They said, ‘Not in my school. If we can help you, we will help you. If you need anything, we will help you. We’re not quitting on you,’ ” Lenci said. “When they told me that, I was crying. No one wanted me to quit school. You feel so important. I wasn’t just a student who goes to school and goes home. They care about you and your future. They won’t quit you. It opened my eyes.”
Despite all that was happening in her personal life, Lenci rededicated herself to the program. She completed her last several courses on the honor roll and was even hired by her externship site. The company that hired her offered to cover the cost of college, and also pay for her to continue her education to become a nurse.
Lenci still doesn’t have custody of her son, but she gets to see him during breaks from school and she is not done fighting for full custody.
“It doesn’t matter your age or how life is — you can get that dream no matter what,” she said. “Give it a try.”