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Single Mother Defies Odds, Transforms Nursing Education at STC

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South Texas College Academic Coach Claudia Camacho has dedicated nearly 20 years to empower and guide aspiring health care professionals, revolutionizing the role of student specialist and advisor while single-handedly raising three children and pursuing a higher education. STC Image
South Texas College Academic Coach Claudia Camacho has dedicated nearly 20 years to empower and guide aspiring health care professionals, revolutionizing the role of student specialist and advisor while single-handedly raising three children and pursuing a higher education. STC Image
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By Selene Rodriguez

Driven by an unfulfilled dream of becoming a nurse, South Texas College Academic Coach Claudia Camacho has dedicated nearly 20 years to empower and guide aspiring health care professionals, revolutionizing the role of student specialist and advisor while single-handedly raising three children and pursuing a higher education.

“I always wanted to be a nurse, but school was just not possible for me. I became a mother at 19 years old, and had two other children shortly after. Suddenly, I found myself a single mom with no job, no money, no transportation and a broken heart,” shared Camacho. “And then I thought, what’s the next best thing? Nursing education.”

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The 54-year-old’s journey at STC began in 1994, only one year after the college was founded, when she attempted to pursue a business degree. But the sudden responsibility to provide for herself and her sons drove her away from her educational pursuit.

“I started working, meticulously managing every penny just to provide for my three boys. I couldn’t afford to drive far from McAllen, let alone leave town to pursue my education. STC was my only chance,” she recalled. “Eventually, I returned to school, switching my major to Interdisciplinary Studies. Our struggle inspired me to strive for better.”

In 2005, Camacho left an administrative position in a nearby clinic to start a career as a secretary for STC’s Vocational Nursing program, the same year she graduated. 

By attending afternoon and weekend classes and motivated by her peers, she then pursued a bachelor’s degree in Technology Management, now Operations Management, graduating from the program’s second cohort in 2009.

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“I found even more encouragement to complete my education because I had educators listening to my story, supporting me to keep going. They all believed in me and saw something I didn’t see in myself. I’m so thankful to STC for opening that first bachelor’s program,” she reflected. “I took it one class at a time, relying on friends to care for my children, often not getting home until 10 p.m. I wanted to set a good example for my boys, showing them that if mama can do it with a full-time job, they don’t have an excuse.”

Over the years, Camacho’s compassionate nature led her beyond her role as a secretary. Recognizing the struggles of medical students balancing numerous assignments and classes with clinical requirements, she took on the responsibility of becoming a Student Success Specialist for Nursing and Allied Health, a position created to aid students facing challenges in completing their degree. 

“I initially supported all of our health care programs, but the Associate Degree in Nursing had unique needs,” she explained. “It’s an intense program with numerous requirements and a high demand. Eventually I became a specialist exclusively for nursing students.”

Camacho takes great pride in being the first point of contact for aspiring nurses and finds joy in witnessing hundreds of them blossom into competent, skilled health care professionals. 

“We take care of the students who come in and guide them every step of the way. We’re deeply involved in case management, tracking progress, graduation rates, applications, orientations and beyond,” she explained. “Our ultimate goal is to ensure every student feels welcomed and heard. I remember how intimidating it can be as a student. From day one, my mission has been to support them as much as I can.”

Leading by example, her dedication and passion for higher education would bear fruit when her boys left for college to San Antonio. It was when the youngest decided to leave the nest that Camacho sought a new challenge.

“My oldest went to the Air Force, the middle one pursued engineering in San Antonio, and my youngest decided to move with him. Then I asked myself, ‘What now?’ That’s when I decided to pursue my master’s degree in Health Administration from UTRGV and graduated in 2018,” she said. “It was challenging, there were tough moments when I wanted to give up, but my boys would say, ‘No, Mom, you taught us not to quit.'”

In 2019, she was promoted once again, this time as an Academic Coach for the newly opened Bachelor in Nursing program, now serving the many students she had supported over the years. 

“I’ve seen graduates from over 10 years ago return now that we offer a bachelor’s degree in Nursing, and they recognize me,” she said. “It feels amazing to see them in the hospital as directors or chief nurses, thinking back on how they started in the program and seeing how far they’ve come.”

Today, a proud grandmother of two, with her entire family living out of town, some even out of the country, Camacho’s retirement is nowhere in sight as she passionately continues her vital role at the college.

“Maybe once I considered leaving to work in a hospital, but I just can’t. I love the work we do here at STC. Every day is different, every day is a new challenge and here I am to help,” she said. “I continue to be amazed at the growth I have witnessed over the years, seeing STC’s program grow into the largest producer of nurses in Texas.  It’s exciting to say that I was here to be part of that incredible evolution. I’m proud to be an STC alumni, and I’m proud to work at STC.”

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