Graduate Bryan Javier Reyna: Nursing grad got hands-on experience as caretaker for his mother with cancer

Bryan Reyna

Graduate Bryan Javier Reyna always wanted to go to college, but accepted at a young age that it wasn’t in his cards. His family couldn’t afford it, and even if they could, he didn’t think he was college material.

But in his mid-20s, about the age when most people who enter college fresh out of high school have graduated, he decided he wanted to give higher education a try, thanks to the encouragement of his mother,

And try he did.

He earned his associate’s degree in emergency management. Then he earned a second associate’s in emergency response and operations, then one in general education, one in arts and finally, a degree in nursing.

It may have taken five associate’s degrees to garner the courage to pursue a bachelor’s, but he finally felt he was ready. After the birth of his daughter in 2016, it was important to him to ensure financial security and stability with the help of a bachelor’s degree. Growing up in Chandler, he knew he wanted to stay in state. He chose NAU for its reputable RN-to-BSN program.

“NAU also ensured the majority of my credits from my multiple associate’s degrees would transfer,” Reyna said. “Plus, I wanted to be a Lumberjack… not a Sun Devil.”

The road to earning a bachelor’s degree wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be. Working as a full-time nurse while going to school full-time is hard enough. Then, add being a full-time parent to the mix. And, shortly after starting classes at NAU, things got even harder—his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and he became her full-time caretaker, often studying and completing class assignments by her bedside. She received her bachelor’s degree in her home country of Peru, and seeing her son working toward completing his degree was a dream come true.

He worked hard, somehow managing to balance his school, work and home life, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. During his final semester at NAU, with graduation in sight, his mother lost her battle with cancer. She died Oct. 15.

“I don’t know when or if I’ll ever move past the death of my mother, but I know she wanted me to finish my education, even in her last year of life.”

On Dec. 14, less than two months after the passing of his mother, he will earn his bachelor’s degree in nursing. Even though she isn’t here to see him walk across the stage, he knows she’ll be with him.

After graduation, he plans to pursue a graduate degree in leadership management, but first hopes to join the Air Force reserves as an officer with the help of his bachelor’s degree.

“I want to utilize my education and real-life nursing skills to help the women and men who protect our country. I want to be a part of something bigger than myself, and I want to give back for all the blessings and opportunities that have allowed me to be where I am today.”

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Carly Banks | NAU Communications
(928) 523-5582 |

NAU Communications