It was March 2013 when senior Yasmine Castro Felix found her calling. For most of her life, like most kids, Castro Felix wanted to be a few different things. In her case, that meant a professional singer and a doctor. But one day in March, her aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, setting Castro Felix down a new path to becoming an oncology nurse to support patients like her aunt.
“Cancer is an inevitable disease that has affected millions of people around the world,” Castro Felix said. “Unfortunately, cancer has been an incredibly common illness that many have endured and lost the battle to, including my aunt. My aunt has been my strongest inspiration to pursue a career in oncology.”
Castro Felix is graduating with a degree in nursing from NAU-Yuma. She believes that nursing is much more than just administering medications to patients.
“It is truly my mission to provide oncology patients with the best quality care by demonstrating the true art of nursing. It’s about being an emotional support system and advocate for these patients.”
A love for learning was baked into Castro Felix’s life early on. Spanish was the primary language spoken in her household, so Castro would watch PBS cartoons and participate in play dates with neighbors to learn English. When she was in elementary school, she was part of an English language learners’ program that she will always be grateful for.
“Ever since I started school, I learned that I loved learning,” Castro Felix said. “Here I am, days away from achieving a bachelor of science in nursing and completing 17 long years of education.”
For Castro Felix, receiving a college education was particularly important because it was an opportunity her parents never had. She felt it was her duty to take advantage of all opportunities presented and to continue to reach for her goals and continue building knowledge.
Castro Felix grew up in Yuma and decided to stay close to home. She took advantage of the partnerships NAU-Yuma has with Arizona Western College where she was able to take her pre-requisite nursing classes using an AWC scholarship she earned—the first of 18 scholarships she received between AWC and NAU.
NAU’s nursing program requires an application after pre-requisites are met, as it is an incredibly competitive program. It is not uncommon for students to apply a few times to the program before being accepted, but Castro Felix was accepted on the first attempt.
“I couldn’t believe that I was one step closer to becoming a nurse,” she said. “It wasn’t until orientation day that it felt real!”
Castro Felix made a point of being involved in campus activities—she liked the camaraderie and sense of community. When Jason Bradley, an assistant clinical professor and program coordinator of the NAU-Yuma nursing program, asked for volunteers from the program to help at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic, she jumped at the chance.
“Volunteering at the COVID-19 clinic to administer vaccines to the Yuma community was one of the highlights of my nursing educational career,” she said. “I chose to be involved in these clinics to help shape history! I was presented the opportunity to administer COVID vaccines to busloads of agricultural field workers. At that moment, I truly felt proud of my Hispanic origins, because my parents came from that type of employment. It touched my heart being a part of the vaccine clinics. I hope to one day share with my future children the difference I made in the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Castro Felix was also a member of the Student Nurses’ Association, the National Society of Leadership and Success Honor Society and the Society for Collegiate Leadership and Achievement Honor Society. She also volunteered in the food service department at Valley Horizon Elementary School.
Castro Felix’s time volunteering gave her the opportunities to grow as both a student and a young adult. She learned how to manage her time and balance her social, personal and school life.
“I genuinely enjoyed volunteering because it helped me stay productive as an individual,” she said. “ I loathe spending days doing absolutely nothing. I learned that I appreciate a fast-paced and stressful lifestyle.”
With these real-life experiences, Castro Felix feels prepared for her future as a nurse. She was able to practice life-threatening patient situations in a safe environment and learn from the experiences to help her in clinical settings. Her plan is to continue her work at Yuma Regional Medical Center as a registered nurse after passing her NCLEX. She plans to gain experience as a med-surgical nurse and become a certified oncology nurse before pursuing a post-graduate degree at NAU to become a family nurse practitioner.
McKenzie McLoughlin | NAU Communications
(928) 523-4789 | McKenzie.McLoughlin@nau.edu