McAllen,
10
December
2019
|
07:18 PM
America/Chicago

Exceptional Graduate: Army veteran continues finding ways to serve

When Luis Barrientos entered the military he wanted to see more of the world.

After stops in Fort Lee, Virginia and across the Atlantic Ocean in Germany, it’s safe to say he’s seen a lot outside of his sleepy hometown of Defiance, Ohio.

Barrientos says his maturity level was much higher when he exited the armed forces than when he entered the U.S. Army. He believes moving out of his hometown allowed him to expand his mind and expose him to different cultures and opportunities that proved key to his success.

“When I was younger I just joined (the military) to get out of my hometown, but as I started to grow and mature, I started to see the bigger picture,” Barrientos said. “It’s all about serving and helping people. Then I got out and still wanted to help and serve.”

He moved to the Rio Grande Valley in April 2016 and one month later he was in Summer I classes at South Texas College chipping away at his career goal of becoming a nurse.

Two and a half years later, the veteran is slated to graduate with his Associate of Applied Science in Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) this December.

“I knew I had to get my classes done,” Barrientos said. “I didn’t want to be in school for four to five years. So I didn’t take any breaks.”

He said the program and the focus on patient care grew on him. The ADN Program at South Texas College prepares students with basic competencies to become safe practitioners in the healthcare field.

“Coming into the program, I didn’t have this outlook on nursing. I wanted to do it because of the pay in the profession. Now after being around the patients, doing clinical hours and everything, doing holistic care, learning to be a patient advocate,” Barrientos said. “It helped me appreciate the nursing profession in a better way. Taking classes at STC definitely helped with that.”

 

“Critical thinking is something that we’re never going to get down 100 percent. We’re always learning. That’s what trips up a lot of students is that critical thinking aspect. It’s still a constant learning process,” Barrientos said. “The nursing program at STC has sharped my critical thinking skills.”
Exceptional graduate: Luis Barrientos

The Ohioan-turned-Texan said he has family all over the state and the Valley was the perfect landing spot. He did more than just sign up for classes, he spent his free time volunteering at local non-profits.“It kept me from going out and doing the stuff a lot of people my age were doing that was not beneficial to them,” Barrientos said. “I’ve met a lot of people and networked a lot and it’s helped out working at the food bank, the Palm Valley Animal Center…handing out Christmas toys, doing the Turkey Trot. All that stuff has benefited me personally and also the community.”

With service at the forefront of Barrientos’s life, he knew nursing was a calling for him to make a greater difference in people’s lives.

“I also want to get more involved with community health initiatives,” Barrientos said. “It’s kind of hard being a nurse because you have a certain scope of practice. I’d like to go out and educate people on high blood pressure and diabetes.”

Regardless of how he chooses to help his community, the RGV gained a valuable asset when Barrientos decided to put his roots down in the area.

Barrientos thanked personnel at the STC Office of Student Veterans Affairs for being a helping hand through his educational journey. His helping hand urged him to begin volunteering at the center and becoming a guide to other vets trying to navigate through the college system.

He now works part-time in STC’s Office of Student Veterans Affairs.

“You have [veteran] centers like this that a lot of veterans will come into clueless, not knowing what to do,” Barrientos said. “If you go to bigger schools in their VA office they’ll just give you the paperwork and tell you to bring it back, that’s it. Here at STC, we sit down with vets and get them to open up. We try to figure out what they want to do so we can help them make their time at school a smoother process.”

One of the biggest takeaways Barrientos has from nursing school is his ability to think differently. He had to be sharp in the Army but saving lives takes a new approach. A way of thinking that permeates beyond just his future profession.

“Critical thinking is something that we’re never going to get down 100 percent. We’re always learning. That’s what trips up a lot of students is that critical thinking aspect. It’s still a constant learning process,” Barrientos said. “The nursing program at STC has sharped my critical thinking skills.”

Earlier in 2019, Barrientos was featured as a Student of the Week, an ongoing recognition of students excelling at STC which is featured in the local newspaper. He explained his career choice in simple terms.

“What better way to give back to your community than to serve twice, first by serving your country and then by serving as a nurse.”