Mara Azlin is paying it forward.
Azlin has endured more than her share of heartache during her 56 years, including a husband and daughter killed by a drunken driver and a young son who lost his life to leukemia. But the dedication she witnessed as health care professionals treated her son, and her father during a heart valve replacement, convinced Azlin to chart a new career in medicine so she could help others.
Now she is excelling at Grossmont College, where Azlin is wrapping up her first year in the highly-regarded cardiovascular therapy program. Her ultimate goal is to become a nurse practitioner or physician.
Azlin’s dedication paid off when she was presented with a Suzanne Donahue CVT Osher Memorial Scholarship. “It’s an incredible help and I feel incredibly honored,” Azlin said. “Just another example of what a wonderful college Grossmont is.”
Azlin enrolled in the Grossmont College program even though she lives about 40 miles to the north in Valley Center and works in the North County suburb of Vista. “I recognized the commute was going to be a challenge, but because of the quality of their program, it was worth the tradeoff,” she said.
She hopes to graduate in 2016. It would be the latest chapter in a lengthy odyssey.
Shortly after graduating from Chino Hills High School in 1975 with a 3.97 grade point average, Azlin married and the couple had three children. Her husband served in the military and the family moved to England, but when his tour was up, Azlin returned home with the hopes of going to college.
Those hopes were put on hold when her 14-month-old son was diagnosed with leukemia and she became his primary caretaker. The disease would claim his life just before his ninth birthday. Three months later, a drunken driver killed her husband and their eldest daughter.
“I worked as a church and school secretary, and a newspaper reporter and photographer to support my remaining daughter and myself,” she said.
She remarried and had another son and daughter, who are now 19 and 21 years old. She then decided to return to school and embark on her new career. She commutes from Valley Center four times a week, and works on weekends.
“I’m so grateful to be here at Grossmont,” she said. “The college offers so many excellent areas of study, but the Allied Health programs are beyond compare.”