KOKOMO, Ind. – Raymond Candelaria was working 12-hour days at a local nail salon, six days a week in order to support himself and his family.
He knew he couldn’t keep up that lifestyle.
“My wife and family really encouraged me to go back to school,” he said. “I was missing out on a lot of family time, and I needed to make a positive change for all of us.”
Candelaria, 35, made the brave decision to switch careers. After enrolling in community college for nursing and being denied admission to the program two years in a row, he applied to IU Kokomo’s program as a third and final attempt to become a nurse.
“I was applying during a time when many people were going back to school to get degrees, so it was more competitive,” he said. “I was anxious to work, and I couldn’t keep waiting. I was nearly ready to give up this dream and find a new one.”
The third time truly was a charm, as Candelaria was admitted to IU Kokomo’s program. Next week, he will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
“It was always my goal to get a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “It was such a relief being admitted to the program and knowing I would be a nurse.”
He continued to work full time at the nail salon, balance school, and be a husband and new father while earning his degree.
“It’s been a challenging road, and I truly couldn’t have done any of this without my wife. She’s been there every step of the way, encouraging me, not letting me quit, and picking up the slack so I could graduate,” he said.
Switching to nursing from being a manicurist was not Candelaria’s first career transition. When he was 24, he made the 2000-mile trek from California, where he had lived since childhood, to Kokomo.
“I was working as a logistics manager, and didn’t like the direction I was headed. I felt like I was going through a quarter-life crisis,” said Candelaria, who immigrated from the Phillipines when he was five years old. “Instead of buying a new car, I started life over.”
This spring semester, he was able to quit working at the nail salon, and begin working the nightshift at St. Joseph Hospital as a Patient Care Technician (PCT) in the Progressive Care Unit. Doing this work further affirmed his choice to become a nurse.
“Working at St. Joseph has been great,” he said. “I believe every nurse should do this type of work before they begin working full time because they will work with aides like me. Those aides will do important and the less glamorous work.”
Candelaria was recently highlighted in the St. Joseph Newsletter for being respectful, friendly, and courteous to his patients, and keeping them informed regarding their treatments and care.
When looking back on his time at IU Kokomo, he said he wouldn’t have achieved this goal without the help and support of his family and his professors. Joyce Hollingsworth, lecturer in nursing, and Tammy Ledbetter, visiting lecturer in nursing, were very influential in him finishing the program.
“I really struggled in some of my courses and in balancing work and school,” he said. “I would meet with each of them multiple times a week to try and better learn material, and their doors were always open.”
He said his favorite memory will be graduating.
“It’s been such a long road, filled with tons of emotions, and nearly seven years being away from my family,” he said. “Commencement will be the highlight of it all.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.