Congratulations are in order for a New York City man who graduated from the same institution where he started off as a janitor.
Frank Baez was a teenager when he landed a janitorial gig at New York University’s Langone’s Tisch Hospital cleaning patient rooms, bathrooms and hallways, ABC’s “Good Morning America” reported.
Baez, now 29, has a new reason to celebrate after graduating with a nursing degree from the university on Monday.
“I could barely speak English at the time when I started working at NYU,” said Baez, who moved to New York from the Dominican Republic when he was just 15 years old. “Now I reflect on it and I feel very proud of how much I accomplished.”
According to the outlet, Baez stepped up to help his family financially by taking a housekeeping job at the hospital. It was through his days of cleaning and watching the nurses with patients that he became interested in the medical field. It wasn’t long before he applied for a job as a patient transporter, wheeling patients to and from their rooms for different tests and surgeries.
He would eventually leave the job to complete his bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature at nearby Hunter College, becoming the first person in his family to earn a college degree.
Still, Baez said he always knew he wanted to return to the place where he got his start.
“While working [at NYU] with the nurses, I realized I wanted to be one of them,” he told ABC News. “I learned how much they advocate for their patients and the passion they have for their job.”
Thanks to the encouragement of nurses he’d worked with, Baez applied to the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and entered an accelerated program that allowed him to earn his degree in just 15 months.
The graduated nurse admits he was never an “A” student, but said he just “studied a lot and worked a lot.”
“Of course there were times I doubted myself, but then I felt that I wanted to do something more for myself, that I deserved better, that I wanted to continue to move forward and grow and go on with my life,” he added.
According to CNN, Baez worked long, frantic days to get to where he is. He told the outlet that his morning classes would run until about 2 p.m., then he’d change and grab a quick meal before his shift started at 3. After work, he’d be up until the wee hours of the morning doing homework and preparing for the next day.
Baez says it was all worth it, however, adding that watching the nurses at work made the things he was learning “come to life.”
Natalya Pasklinsky, director of simulation learning at the College of Nursing, said Baez flew through the “extremely rigorous” program with flying colors. The Dominican Republic native graduated with a 3.6 GPA and already has plans to become a critical care nurse in the hospital’s ICU. He said he also wants to help underserved communities.
“The way he interacted with patients, to me showed a lot of compassion,” Pasklinsky said of the former student. “In my mind, he’s a star. I think he’s going to be a fantastic nurse.”
Baez said if there’s anything he’s learned from this, it’s that you should never give up.
“If you work hard and you have discipline and you want something, you should always go for it,” he said. “Never give up on your dreams.”
Watch more in the video below.