After Frank Baez moved from the Dominican Republic to New York City with his mother at the age of 15, he stepped up to help his family financially, becoming a janitor at New York University’s Langone Tisch Hospital.
Watching the nurses with patients as he cleaned hospital rooms inspired him to become a nurse himself, he told Good Morning America.
On Monday, 29-year-old Baez graduated from the same university where he once spent his days cleaning, and now he plans to be a critical care nurse in an intensive care unit.
“I could barely speak English at the time when I started working at NYU,” Baez told the news outlet. “Now I reflect on it and I feel very proud of how much I accomplished.”
After leaving his job to complete his bachelor’s degree at Hunter College and becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college, he returned to NYU and completed the accelerated program at the Rory Meyers College of Nursing in 15 months.
Natalya Pasklinsky, director of simulation learning at the college, told GMA that the “program is extremely rigorous,” but Baez “flew through it with flying colors.”
“The way he interacted with patients, to me showed a lot of compassion,” she added. “In my mind, he’s a star. I think he’s going to be a fantastic nurse.”
Though he was admittedly “never an A student,” Baez “studied a lot and worked a lot,” eventually graduating with a 3.6 GPA.
“Of course there were times I doubted myself, but then I felt that I wanted to do something more for myself, that I deserved better, that I wanted to continue to move forward and grow and go on with my life,” he told the news outlet. “What I did was, I never gave up.”