[Bridgeview, Chicago-Jefferson Park & Rosemont, IL] Northwestern College conducted its 110th Commencement Ceremony at the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place in Chicago. This year’s ceremony featured two students who addressed their class, including Raphael Parayao of Cicero and Michelle Hizon-Pingul of Lombard. Parayao attended the Bridgeview Campus’s Violet L. Schumacher School of Nursing while Hizon-Pingul attended NC Online’s Health Information Technology Program. Focusing on Parayao, he spoke from his heart, reaching out to all graduates, thanking them for being a part of his journey through Northwestern College.
Parayao, 28, graduated in 2003 from Morton West High School in Berwyn with a dream of becoming a doctor, although he wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to afford medical school. His childhood had been a challenging one but forced him early on to adapt to life’s changes and make his circumstances work for him.
Parayao was born in the Philippines and came to America when he was 6 years old. His father Vicente had come to Chicago before them and brought the rest of the family (his mother Denia and he and his older brother Ivan) when he was able to find a home and a stable job at the post office. However a little after a year here in the states, his father passed away from an illness, which led to his mother going back to school to get a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certificate and searching for jobs. During that time, Parayao and his older brother were sent to live with their extended family. They apartment hopped a lot, first living in San Diego for a year (when he was in 3rd grade), then a few months in Montreal, and finally coming to Cicero. During those two years his mother worked two full time jobs as a CNA to support the three of them. When they finally moved to Berwyn, his life became more stable, allowing him to attend school in Berwyn from 6th grade to the end of high school.
Following high school, Parayao entered Morton College’s Nursing Program, but while school had always come easy for him, he was surprised to find that college was different. He was young and thought life was going to be easy, so he did not take the program seriously enough, thus when he failed, it was a big reality check for him. So he took a CNA class and earned his certificate, then got a job at MacNeal Hospital as a Patient Care Technician for 3 ½ years, and then spent another 3 ½ years as a CNA for a hospice company. But it was while working as a patient care technician at MacNeal that Parayao determined he really wanted to be a nurse, for there he really saw how passionate and caring nurses were. He realized that nurses have a bigger impact on patients, for they spend more time at their bedsides and are the eyes and ears for doctors. He was inspired watching nurses work, witnessing not only their compassion and patience, but their critical thinking and autonomy.
In 2012 Parayao started looking for a new nursing program. A friend of his who had obtained a phlebotomy certificate suggested he check out Northwestern College where he had gone, for the College had just opened the Violet L. Schumacher School of Nursing. Parayao did head to Northwestern College, and was excited when he was accepted. “Not many schools will accept you after you have already failed a nursing program, but Northwestern College gave me that chance, and I am forever grateful.”
In Fall of 2012 Parayao started classes at the Violet L. Schumacher School of Nursing where he made an indelible mark. Taking the program more seriously than anything he had in his life, he gave it his all and strived for excellence, working his way up to President of the Nursing Student Organization. While attending, he maintained his job at the hospice until it closed in February 2014. It was then that he was hired by Mount Sinai Hospital as well as BrightStar Care as a CNA. With an eye to assist his fellow nursing students in need, he also became a nursing tutor at Northwestern College, so he balanced three jobs during his last four months of college. In addition, he still found time to regularly volunteer in the community and at various hospitals for health fairs as well as at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago where he spent time serving lunch and playing games with the pediatric oncology patients and their families.
In his commencement address, Parayao noted the diversity of his classmates, each in different programs and taking different paths to get their degrees, but united in one room accepting their diplomas, all sharing the same determination, discipline, sacrifice, willpower and drive. They each had broken through walls to achieve their educational goals, although each graduate’s walls were different. Parayao’s wall came in one class where despite all his efforts, his test scores were not good. At that time in his life he watched his older brother Ivan’s pinning ceremony for his LPN and knew he wanted to share that experience with his own nursing class. This experience gave him the courage to ask his own classmates for help with the class he was struggling with, and they did. He and his nursing classmates had become like family to each other, and with their help, support and confidence, he overcame his struggles and persevered. In expressing his gratitude to his peers, he noted, “You are all my drive and inspiration, and I thank you.”
While many may have thought obtaining their diplomas was an impossible dream, Parayao told them how much they had learned about themselves along their journey. “Nothing is impossible. We’ve been through the impossible and here we are sitting in our graduation gowns, waiting to be able to throw our caps in the air. No dream is too big, no vision is too bold. There is nothing, nothing that we cannot achieve!”
Parayao is still working at Mount Sinai Hospital and BrightStar as a CNA and is scheduled to take the NCLEX-RN licensure examination. Upon his successful completion of the exam, he will receive the Registered Nurse (RN) designation and has already been offered a position as an RN at Mount Sinai on the same floor he currently works on. He hopes to do a few years in telemetry because he believes it is a good background to have, but eventually he would like to go into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or the Emergency Department. This fall Parayao intends to enter an Associates to Masters online program in hopes of obtaining his Master's degree in Executive Leadership. With experience and an advanced degree, he hopes to obtain a leadership position at a hospital in a few years, and further down the road, to be a Chief Nursing Officer at a hospital.
About Northwestern College:
Northwestern College (NC) is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, www.ncahlc.org. The college offers focused career-oriented associate degree and certificate programs with flexible schedules and a supportive faculty. Day, evening, weekend, online classes and online programs are available. More information can be found at www.northwesterncollege.edu or by calling toll-free (888) 205-2283.