Graduates Jessica Irene and Javier Chavez: Hard work and resilience enable siblings to graduate from NAU together

Jessica Irene and Javier Chavez
Jessica and Javier Chavez
Jessica Irene and Javier Chavez. Top photo: The Chavez siblings. Photo credit: Ashlie Hoffman, Who What Where Photography

One NAU family has double the reasons to celebrate commencement this year.

Next Friday, siblings Jessica Irene and Javier Chavez will cross the stage and receive their diplomas in much the same way as they made it through their educations.

The brother-sister duo from El Mirage didn’t plan it this way, it just sort of worked out. And they couldn’t be happier about it.

Their journey to NAU started in high school; both participated in an allied health service program and found they enjoyed nursing and health care. Jessica, older by a year, attended a Discover NAU day and loved the campus, the weather and that she was close to home but felt far. Javier followed, deciding on his own to become a Lumberjack but glad that he had his sister as support. He was excited about the many opportunities ahead of him.

“Nursing was the right profession for me because I am able to connect with others, fuel my passion for teaching and practice the art of caring,” Javier said.

Both majored in nursing, but that turned out to be complicated too. Neither got into the nursing program on their first try; Jessica didn’t get in on her second either. She decided to change her major to speech language pathology; she was on the Lumberjack scholarship and needed to graduate on time. But, when Javier was applying for his second time, he and their parents talked her into a third go-round.

“What do you know, the third time was the charm—we both got in at the same time!” Jessica said. “I’d say this was the best part of my time at NAU because who better to go through nursing school with than your brother?”

Jessica Chavez

Once in the program, both dove into nursing experiences. Javier’s favorite memories were experiences with his cohort that just happened a little earlier than most students’ favorite moments.

“In the nursing program, all I can remember are the laughs, the friendships and the countless memories we all made,” he said. “Waking up at 5 a.m. to go to clinicals and carpooling with your friends while listening to music are mornings that I am going to miss. Seeing the excitement on my peers’ faces when we performed new skills are some of my favorite moments.”

Jessica was vice president of the Student Nurses’ Association and Javier was secretary; both were founding members of the Nursing STEM Club, helped along by research they did with professors before being accepted into the nursing program. The Chavez siblings also both went to Guatemala on a nursing study abroad program, working in the free health clinic in Santa Maria de Jesus.

“The population was very malnourished, and it showed me a completely different perspective on growth and development, diabetes and hypertension,” Jessica said. “The care I provided was unique because it was a diverse population of all ages, and I valued using my Spanish fluency to interact with patients and ensure as much comfort as I could provide.”

Javier Chavez

The next step for Javier and Jessica and the rest of their nursing cohort is passing the NCLEX, the certification exam for registered nurses. Javier hopes to get a job on a telemetry floor, gain experience and then look into a specialty, such as becoming an ICU nurse. He also would like to get a master’s degree and eventually move into teaching nursing. Jessica also is interested in a graduate degree after some time spent as a nurse in a hospital, then moving into teaching either as a professor or a clinical instructor.

Before the studying and job searching, though, they’re celebrating this achievement not only for themselves but for their family. Jessica and Javier are the first in their family to earn college degrees, and family members are traveling to see them walk across the stage and flip their tassel to the other side of their graduation caps.

“Everything happens for a reason, and it does not matter how long it takes you to graduate as long as you do it,” Javier said. “That’s what matters.”

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Heidi Toth | NAU Communications
(928) 523-8737 | heidi.toth@nau.edu