The world seemed to fall on Jocelyn Molina’s shoulders soon after she transferred to Adelphi last spring, just before the pandemic. With steely determination, and support from an understanding professor, she not only endured—she excelled.

Jocelyn Molina

Online college classes weren’t in Jocelyn Molina’s plan.

But when COVID-19 forced schools across the country to close, Molina, a nursing student at Adelphi, became one of the legions of students forced to trade in-person instruction for remote learning. Going virtual wasn’t easy, especially because Molina was a new student. The 27-year-old had transferred to Adelphi last spring from a community college, and the health informatics class was the first she was taking.

“I was at a new school, using new technology, and I didn’t know anyone,” Molina says. “It was intimidating.”

To make things even tougher, Molina was working 30 hours a week as a patient care associate at Northwell Hospital in Manhasset, New York—during the height of the state’s COVID-19 outbreak—as well as caring for her mother, all while taking that online class.

But Molina made it through the class due to her own determination and the help of her teacher, Edmund J.Y. Pajarillo, PhD, associate professor and department chair in the College of Nursing and Public Health.

“His kindness and teaching methods were wonderful,” Molina said. “He made it less scary because he was always willing to take the time to help me one-on-one on Zoom, phone or email.”

Here’s Molina’s story.

‘The World Fell on My Shoulders’

Molina knew going back to school wasn’t going to be easy. It had been three years since she had gotten her associate’s degree from Nassau Community College. Her plans to get her nursing degree were interrupted when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Molina moved in with her parents and became her mother’s caretaker.

“When my mom got sick, it was like the world fell on my shoulders,” Molina said.

But Molina had wanted to be a nurse since she was 12, so despite the challenges, she followed her passion and enrolled at Adelphi in Spring 2020, commuting from her parents’ home in Roslyn Heights, New York.

A few weeks into the semester, COVID-19 hit. Molina’s nursing class shifted to online. “I was so nervous, I had no idea what I was facing,” she says.

Then things got more complicated when patients at the hospital where she worked started coming down with COVID-19.

“I was terrified I would infect my parents,” Molina says. “I couldn’t go home.”

So she threw some clothes into an overnight bag and moved in with her boyfriend, an officer with the New York Police Department. They lived in an apartment in Queens that Airbnb provided to first responders. They shared the space with another first responder, a nurse from South Carolina who came to New York to work at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Molina worked her shift at the hospital, logged on to her online class when she got home, and continued to care for her mother from afar, dropping off food and running errands for her and her father.

Then, in April, she came down with COVID-19.

“I got it from work,” she says. “My symptoms weren’t severe but I have a history of asthma, and it flared up while I had COVID, so I was on inhalers.” She took a leave from her job at the hospital and her three older sisters took over her mother’s care. She stayed in her bedroom in her apartment, quarantined from her roommates.

But even while she was sick, Molina kept logging on each day to complete that nursing class.

She told Dr. Pajarillo, her professor, about her situation. “He encouraged me and was very supportive. He made it all less overwhelming,” she said.

Molina recovered from COVID-19 after a couple of weeks, and finished the informatics course. “It was challenging, but I did it,” she said.

And get this: She got an A+.

“This student is brilliant and motivated,” Dr. Pajarillo said.

Nothing Can Get in Her Way

Now Molina is taking her second nursing class, biology, online. She is on track to get her nursing degree in 2021 and says that not even another COVID-19 wave in the fall will keep her from finishing on time.

Her days are full: She currently takes care of her mother full time and takes her for chemotherapy three times a week. She goes by her parents’ house daily to cook, do housework and run errands for them. She does her schoolwork in between all that. Sometimes she logs on at the hospital while her mom gets chemo and does her classwork till it’s time to drive her mom home.

Molina credits her parents with teaching her to work hard. They came to the United States in the 1980s from El Salvador, fleeing the country’s civil war.

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