Jessicka Castro is dedicated to her family and her Lorain community. By earning her nursing degree at Lorain County Community College, she didn’t have to decide between a great education and staying true to her roots. As a registered nurse, she continues to serve her city by helping young people in Lorain make healthy choices.

Castro has always known her life would be about caring for others. After she graduated from Southview High School in 2003, she postponed her college plans to care for her grandmother full time. When her grandmother passed away, she was ready to explore her higher education options.

Castro began by talking with her mentor Michael Ferrer, who encouraged her to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. She then met with Dina Ferrer, LCCC Lorain Learning Centers Coordinator, to explore her options. After meeting with Dina and conducting some research, Castro found LCCC to be her best choice and one that allowed her to study in Lorain.

“I knew I wanted to work in the medical field. LCCC was close to my house, cheaper than other colleges in Ohio, and the staff at the Lorain Center was really there for me,” Castro said.

Castro took advantage of the many opportunities provided by the LCCC Lorain Learning Center and began her coursework. She quickly felt at home with the small class sizes and individual attention. She also earned the LCCC Nontraditional Incentive Award from 2012-2014, a scholarship that helped cover the cost of tuition and books.

“The Nontraditional Award helped me in many ways,” she said. “I didn’t have to come out of pocket for any of my classes. I also bought books and other college materials with the money. I didn’t have the stress some of my peers encountered trying to figure out how I was going to pay for college.”

As a student at the LCCC Lorain Center, Castro did much more than simply attend classes. She became a student worker at the center. She excelled in math courses and soon became president of the center’s math club. She also made time to share her knowledge by tutoring her fellow students in math, English and anatomy and physiology. She also took the job working with Michael Ferrer and his youth at the Lorain County Urban League. Within just a few months at LCCC, Castro was excelling in all of her courses and was a straight “A” student.

Though Castro knew she wanted a career in the medical field, she wasn’t sure which path to take. That all changed when she was asked to be a practice patient for students in the State Tested Nursing Assistant program.

“I was working at the Lorain Center when the instructor asked me if I would help by being a mock patient for the STNA students to practice on before their state test. That’s when I knew that I definitely wanted to get a degree in nursing to become a registered nurse,” Castro recalled.

After that experience, Castro declared her major as associate degree nursing and began her core coursework at the main LCCC campus in Elyria. While at the Elyria campus, she set records for the highest scores earned in the anatomy and physiology courses taught by Kathy Durham, Ph.D. She also scored 100 percent in all of her math courses.

She stayed motivated to reach her goal by taking classes every semester until graduation. Her hard work paid off when she graduated with honors in 2014. She passed the registered nurse state exam shortly after.

These days, Castro shares her medical knowledge with young people in Lorain through her position as the lead facilitator of the Promoting Achievement through Community Education (PACE) program, a mentoring program that helps at-risk youth in Lorain. The PACE program often meets at the LCCC Lorain Learning Center where many of the program’s students are preparing for future attendance at LCCC. The students in the program also volunteer and complete community service projects throughout the county under Castro’s supervision. Castro is the only RN on the PACE team and teaches young people about maintaining a healthy lifestyle while also conducting duties such as health assessments, health counseling and suggesting exercise regiments. Her program at LCCC equipped her well for her job, she said.

“My LCCC education prepared me for my job by providing me with the essential tools and knowledge to withstand any situation I encounter that is within my scope of practice as a registered nurse,” she said.

When others are considering college and careers, Castro is a vocal proponent of LCCC. “I always recommend LCCC to others. It’s a great place to start your career,” she said.

LCCC now offers two convenient learning centers in Lorain:

• LCCC Lorain Learning Center, 201 W. Erie Ave., inside City Center.

• LCCC Community Learning Center at Lorain High School, 2600 Ashland Ave. 

For more information on the LCCC Lorain Learning centers, visit www.lorainccc.edu/lorain

For more information on the nursing programs at LCCC, visit www.lorainccc.edu/nursing.