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"Without the support and encouragement from my mentors, I would have given up."

Norma remembers that a ringing phone distracted her husband when he nearly choked her to death one evening seven years ago.

That phone call was her wake up call to ask her parents to come rescue her and her three children — then a 5 year old boy, and 2 year old twins, a boy and a girl.

Norma and her children spent a year with her parents and extended family in their cramped home when her sister, a mentor with Bridge partner, Families Helping Families in Naperville asked her if she would consider applying for the Bridge Communities transitional housing program.  Norma did apply and was accepted in 2002.

Norma had no idea of what the next two years would entail.  Working part time at the day care center where her children were enrolled, Bridge's employment counselor, Patty Kelly, suggested that Norma take the Ball Foundation career tests.  Norma tested well in math and science and was encouraged to consider the two-year radiology program at the College of DuPage.  From 350 applicants, Norma was one of 65 selected to enroll in the program.

For the next two years, Norma rose at 5 am to get her children to day care, worked at the day care center from 6:30 am until noon, took classes at COD between 1 and 4 pm, then returned home with her children, cooked dinner and saw to their homework and bedtime, and then opened her books to study until midnight.

"There were days when I just broke down and said, I can't do this!  Without the support and encouragement from my mentors, I would have given up," says Norma.  Her clinical internship at Provena Mercy Hospital in Aurora led to a job offer for full time employment upon her graduation.  Most days she no spends in the operating room assisting surgeons with x-ray and fluro contrast images as they conduct their procedures and surgeries.

"I never thought I could do this," says Norma. "I have become bolder and more outspoken.  What got me through is that I knew passionately that I wanted to be a good role model for my children."

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"As a mentor, I feel that I have received more than I have given...the goal of a mentor might be to help families find resources to further their education, get out of debt, and plan for the future, but one soon realizes that it is the social and emotional support that is most essential.  Being a mentor has taught me patience, compassion, and perseverance.  It has changed my definition of success and increased my gratitude toward family, friends and God."