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Mother of three reflects on going to school at the same time as her sons

Jake Deven
Jaclyn Nava and her sons Albert Nava Jr.,left, and Samuel Nava, right, have been going to school together at UTEP.

Most college students might not be too excited if one of their parents were enrolled at the same school as them at the same time. But for brothers Albert and Samuel Nava, doing it with their mom has been a rewarding experience.

Jaclyn Nava, 40, graduated in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from UTEP, and will be graduating this spring from the School of Nursing. Returning to school after 15 years was an effort she first made with hesitation, but she said attending college at the same time as her two sons, 22-year-old Albert and 18-year-old Samuel, has been a welcome change this time around.

“The transition of going back to school was a little difficult,” Nava said. “I feel like I don’t learn things as fast, I don’t retain things as easy, but with my two sons going to school with me has been a big help.”

One of the biggest challenges when switching from accounting to nursing was retraining her brain to understand science concepts, as opposed to having the business-focused mindset developed in her years as an accountant. Aside from studying theory and learning new material, Nava also must complete a series of clinicals, requiring her to spend all day at the hospital, putting what she is learning in theory into practice.

“(Accounting) is a very different profession than nursing. I wanted a second career, I wanted to do something different,” Nava said. “I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it is almost a 180. So, my hat goes off to nursing students because it’s very challenging.”

As a wife and mother of three, Nava knows what it’s like to have a busy schedule on top of raising a family. Homework and studying were added to her already busy list that includes cooking, cleaning and a million other things that parents need to get done in order to ensure a productive day. Although Nava said that rather than homework and studying being an inconvenience, she actually looks forward to getting together with her sons and learning as they help each other with assignments.

“It’s cool to see my mom going through what we’re going through because we didn’t see that part of her when we were babies, and to see her balance family life with school is really inspiring,” said Samuel, Jacklyn’s second oldest son and a sophomore at EPCC.

Having a family support system behind her has served as motivation, as Nava said that at first she felt a little nervous about going back to school since many of her classmates would be closer to her sons’ ages.

“I kind of felt a little bit intimidated going back to school with students who are the same age as my two boys, but I actually think that having my boys being that age, I was able to relate to my classmates very well,” Nava said.

Nava and her oldest son Albert, a first-year doctoral student in UTEP’s School of Pharmacy, have been going to school together for over a year now. Everything from homework and studying to lunch and carpooling have become a synchronized venture that the mother and son say has helped them stay motivated.

“We have a round table at home and we all study there, so we all understand that finals are here,” Nava said. “So we all get our books and our laptops and study together. And instead of being at the movies on Friday nights, we study and sometimes even have group members come over to study.”

With Nava and her sons all being health science students, sharing textbooks and notes is a luxury that not many students can relate to. The family often examines each other’s respective fields to see how they can help one another.

Nava, a soon-to-be registered nurse, has gotten help from her sons to understand the uses and side effects of medications that she’s come across during her clinicals.

“We’ve talked a lot about the role of the nurse and the role of the pharmacist and how one can help the other in settings such as a hospital,” Nava said.

Her sons see their mom go through that stress and anxiety right before an exam and find it humorous that she understands what it is like to stress over a test.

“We used to say we weren’t ready for a test after studying all night and she would say ‘that’s not possible,’ but now she knows what it feels like,” Albert said.

Being away from school for a long period of time would likely take a toll on anyone who’s thinking of returning, especially in the digital age, where campuses everywhere are uniting technology and education.

For Nava, the innovative solutions that UTEP adopted since she was a business undergrad have been the hardest to get used to. Having homework assignments and exams online is a new experience for her, but the learning curve has been valuable to her relationship with her sons.

“They help me a lot with the technology stuff, like Google Docs and Blackboard. I had no idea what those were, so it was awesome to learn through my sons,” Nava said.

Another aspect of the college life that she has adopted from her sons and has grown to enjoy, which her sons find hilarious, is the meme culture.

“She’s posting them all over our group chat,” Albert said.

Nava’s sons say their mom’s switch from accounting to nursing is one of the many reasons why they chose to pursue a degree in a related field. Albert’s original plan was to attend the pharmacy program at UT Austin, until UTEP announced their pharmacy program that will allow him to get his Ph.D.

Nava is eternally thankful for her cousin, a former Texas legislator, who was one of the original supporters for the School of Pharmacy at UTEP.

“There was a lot of little things that pointed back to our family, which was the strangest thing but I guess it was meant to be,” Nava said. “The stars just aligned. I never thought that Albert would be in El Paso going to pharmacy school while I’m going to nursing school. And when we put a monetary value to it, it’s almost a hundred thousand dollars that we’re saving.”

Being one of the first in her family to graduate college back in 2001, Nava’s pursuit of a new education in a challenging climate is a feat that demonstrates her willingness to provide for and succeed with her family. She is currently interning at The Hospitals of Providence in the pediatrics department, where she hopes that it will turn into a full-time position.

“My mom has a bachelor’s of business administration in accounting, soon to be an RN, and on top of that, a Ph.D. in parenting,” Albert said.

Follow Jake Deven on Twitter @jakedeven

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Mother of three reflects on going to school at the same time as her sons