Story by Isaac Dektor, Editor-in-Chief
Gulnoza Kamilova prepares to don her nurse scrubs instead of a traditional cap and gown at the culmination of this semester, marking the end of the nursing major’s long and arduous journey that led her to this moment.
Growing up in a country ravaged by civil war, Kamilova always dreamed of a career in medicine. But it wasn’t until she found herself just blocks away from Valley College and discovered the Child Development and Family Resource Centers that her dreams began to take shape. These centers became her family, providing not only a safe and nurturing environment for her children but also a community of support that propelled her toward a brighter future and opportunities that had once seemed impossible.
Kamilova, her husband John and their one-year-old son Yunus moved from Kyrgyzstan in 2010, after a tumultuous civil war began. By 2012 the now mother-of-three was enrolled in classes at Valley and began a new chapter in her life.
“We came here because there was a war in my country,” said Kamilova. “We were here as refugees and then we stayed here.”
Valley’s nursing program is demanding. Students complete challenging classes followed by 12-hour shifts at a local hospital. For the 36-year-old refugee-turned-citizen, who is not only a student worker but a mother of three, time management is a delicate balancing act. Kamilova deftly juggles her responsibilities as a student, worker and mother. But thanks to Valley’s Child Development and Family Resource Centers, Kamilova didn’t let a ball drop, and now she’s about to close this chapter.
Her oldest son, 13-year-old Yunus, spent nearly a decade at the CDC before reaching the age limit this year, but 9-year-old Mariam and 4-year-old Yusuf are currently enrolled. Children as young as 4 years old engage in science projects, gardening, weekly vocabulary and story-time at the center — all free of charge through a subsidized program.
The average cost of childcare for preschool-aged kids is just under $10,000 per year in Los Angeles County, according to data organization site Kids Data.
“They are family,” said Kamilova. “The center helps me to stay on track with my classes. I know my kids are okay so I’m not worried when I’m in class. The teachers are amazing — sometimes, when I get stressed out, they comfort me.”
The nursing major’s youngest child, Yusuf, is currently in room five where he learns through various game activities.
“My little one’s first word was Olga, who is his teacher right now,” said Kamilova. “If your kids want to go to their school it means it's good for them. My kids love the afterschool program and preschool. Honestly, I want to go there,” she said with a chuckle. “It’s a really good and safe environment.”
The school’s resources served as a catch-all for many of the nursing majors' academic and familial needs — from childcare to stipends for textbooks. Through these various resources, Kamilova found the necessary assistance to pursue her academic and professional goals.
“The CDC was taking care of my kids and FRC was buying books and diapers and anything to help my finances,” she said.
According to a study conducted by UC Davis, there were 145,061 student parents enrolled in community college in California as of 2018. Eighty percent of those student-parents were female with an average of three or more children and an income of $28,495.
Jennifer Guevara, director of the CDC, emphasized the benefit of the center not only for children but for the parents too.
“Any parent would say that if my child is in a nice place right next to me, you're going to feel less stress because you know that they're well taken care of,” said Guevara. “All of our families, the staff, we're all just a big family. We all feel at home here. ”
While taking advantage of the wrap-around services available at the college, Kamilova works at the front desk of continuing education, where nontraditional students reenrolling in college begin their time at Valley. She assists English learners to enroll in classes in addition to assessing their ESL needs.
“To study takes a lot,” she said. “When you have a family, you have to worry about kids, food – it can feel like too much. I want to help other students to achieve their goals.”
As Kamilova prepares to graduate this spring, she looks back on her years at the community college with immense gratitude. She’s thankful for the resources, the people and the opportunities that helped her achieve a long-awaited dream.
“They’re part of my family and I think I’m part of their family.”