Commencement-Nursing grad

June 6, 2007
Kathy Miller, 661/654-2456, or
Michele Newel, 661/654-2720,

Laura Roman didn't have a quiet home life as a child. Drugs, gangs and violence were part of her everyday world. Parents hitting each other and children being removed from their families were a constant. Police officers and SWAT teams were always seen visiting the neighbors.

This was life in a labor camp.

"Growing up in a labor camp as a child was fun but I can now see the poverty level of my family and friends," Roman said. "It did not scare me because I thought it was a normal part of life despite all this people shared the same culture and values. If the families who had more saw another family struggling they would attempt to help them in any way possible. There was also a lot of government programs that would come to the camp to give us free food, free child care and connect our families to resources available in the community."

Roman was raised in a camp until she was 15 years old and then placed in foster care. Her parents, who are both Mexican immigrants, tried to force her to drop out of high school so she could work in the fields and help out with monthly expenses but she convinced them to let her continue. "Money was very scarce so I learned to do without it," she said. "If I can find a disadvantage it's that I didn't receive the support from my family early on in life. I don't really blame them; I understand they were raised in a different culture where education was not valued."

Fortunately she does and will graduate with her bachelor's of science degree in nursing Saturday (June 9) from California State University, Bakersfield.

It's a far cry from where she's been. "Being a foster child was horrible only because I was a youth," she said. "Families did not want a youth in their home and placement was difficult." The family she was placed with required her to pay them $75 a week, she said, money she earned from her restaurant job she held during high school. "This family member did not provide me with any transportation so I'd walk several miles to get work during my teens. I hated my life, I wanted to escape and so then after a year of staying with this family member I ran away with my boyfriend and got pregnant."

Luckily her passion prevailed. "I became interested in the nursing field early in life. As soon as I graduated from high school I began working as a medical assistant and was fortunate to work with several doctors who were specialized in different areas of medicine," she said. "These doctors served as my mentors and they encouraged me to continue school and help me understand the careers available in medicine."

And although the single mother of three has never given up, she has continued to face adversity during her tenure at CSUB. "The first year of the nursing program I was diagnosed with an illness that caused me to be hospitalized on several occasions, but I still had faith in myself. The second year of the nursing program I unfortunately began going through a difficult divorce."

Things didn't get any easier for the first-generation college student. "My father today is battling Alzheimer's disease, and my mother has been diagnosed with a tumor in her lung and a pancreas this past year. They need my help with teaching them the disease process of these conditions. I've been as supportive as I can while balancing school, being a single mother, and dealing with court issues. I do believe that these experiences have allowed me to empower myself. It gave me the desire to achieve more in life. I am a strong believer that you can achieve anything in life if you just put forth the effort."

She's also been trying to revive a relationship with her natural parents but has found it to be another challenge for her to overcome. "They did not want to talk to me, they ignore my phone calls. I attempted to visit them several times and they will shut the door on me. I have forgave them and I want to continue to be part of their life but sometimes I

find it difficult," Roman said.

Roman tries to be strong for her three boys, ranging in age nine to 13. "They have struggled with me and the two oldest understand my hardships. The little one is still having a hard time. Many times I can't buy them what they want and my little one gets upset and that makes me very sad. I cry very often and it's hard not to break down." It's been hard for her since just living off of grants and loans.

While juggling all these different aspects of her reality Roman has managed to be the recipient of four scholarships due to need and merit. "Without the scholarships I truly believe I wouldn't have been able to attend school," the 31-year-old said. " I don't think that I could find any words that will tell you how much I appreciate to have been chosen as a recipient."

Her benefactors aren't the only ones who think highly of Roman. "She is an excellent student who strives to do her best in any task assigned to her," said Judy Pedro, CSUB nursing faculty member. "She demonstrates the genuine desire to help her patients and peers. She is a well rounded student in that she gives back to the community in service including joining the Tobacco Free Kern team at the Relay for Life, helping out at the campus open house event, presenting the topic of childhood obesity to future student nurses who are in the RN Explorers program, and is a member of the California Student Nurses Association. She also is the fundraiser chair for her graduating nursing class of 2007. All this and she is the mother of three young boys.

"What is striking about Laura is that she won the battle against adversity and has become a shining example that you can achieve your dreams if you work hard," Pedro continued. "What she has shared with me is that she grew up in a labor camp where pursuit of higher education was not a life goal. For these reasons, Laura is an outstanding graduate and an outstanding person."

Roman is now ready for the next phase of her life to start. "It's been difficult to get to this point, but I have accomplished my life long goal. I will soon be an RN and will return to CSUB for my master's in nursing. My plans are to remain in this community and serve the underserved. I have been offered several positions, but just a few days ago, I decided that it would be best if I work with the Kern Public Health Department because of the endless possibilities it has to offer."

She continued, "The area that I am most interested in is women's health, although working at KMC I have found the intensive care unit intriguing. Nursing is a great field and you have so many options, which is one reason why I chose this field."

And it seems for Roman no matter what gets in her way the options are unlimited as far as she's concerned.