Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, on Friday, May 1, 2020, the Hostos Community College Nursing Department announced an early graduating cohort of 23 registered nurses.   

Kathleen Ronca, Hostos professor and coordinator of the College’s R.N. program, points out the extra distance this cohort has traveled:  “Our students are working full time, have families of their own, and have been dealing with COVID-19 themselves, or taking care of family members with COVID-19. Despite these obstacles, they managed to meet all requirements for graduation a month early.”  

Esther Samudio is one of the 23 students. The first member of her family to attend college, her parents are from Mexico; born in Queens and raised in Harlem, she currently lives in the Bronx with her husband.  

Samudio held four jobs in Manhattan’s Upper East Side to pay for her tuition:  she worked at an Equinox gym, a smoothie bar and a taqueria, as well as being a dog walker. She could walk from job to job, which simplified things a great deal, and the ride in from the Bronx wasn’t a long or difficult one. “It was very hard to have all those jobs and study,” she says, “but at least I didn’t have a long commute, and I live near Hostos, so I walk a lot.”   

She finished with a 3.3 GPA, although she wishes it would have been higher. “But what I’m proudest of is – no one can take this degree away from me. It was tough, but it was worth it.” 

Cindy Walker went back to school after many years of working odd jobs. Even though she had established and run a cleaning business, Walker realized she wanted more out of life. "I got my GED through Hostos, and then I enrolled. It’s been eight years since I began this journey.” Walker reflected on her nursing degree: “I like caring for people. In a funny way, cleaning houses is about caring, but I’m going to keep on studying now. That’s what I want.”   

Samudio is actively applying to hospitals so she can continue to work and study. Cindy Walker is looking at baccalaureate programs and anticipates working and studying toward a 4-year degree..  

Samudio and Walker proudly join a group of nurses who have triumphed over challenging circumstances on and off campus. Nursing program Co-coordinator Ed King says, “None of them failed their standardized tests. Furthermore, each student completed a comprehensive Infection Control Module developed in response to this pandemic. The students’ clinical education, even though interrupted by the pandemic, was completed with on-line training that is quantitative and complete in assessing the health needs of a client. I am very proud of these graduates who undertook extra work in order to graduate early. There is a saying in the Marine Corps: ‘Individuals are measured not only by their strength but by their honor.’ These graduates are second to none.” ​