Although he chose Cleveland State specifically for the nursing program, he also liked that it was affordable and close to his home. He enjoyed the general prerequisite courses, and he excelled in them, as evidenced by his 4.0 GPA entering the nursing program. It was his “journey” as he calls it, through the nursing program where he gained not only a quality education, but lifelong lessons and experience he will never forget.
“During the difficult times, I did not give up. I learned to have courage, I learned to face my fears, and I learned that perseverance, dedication, and consistency were key. During these times, I also learned that faith, hope, love, and compassion were essential elements that I needed to be eager to gain, and that had to become real and palpable in my life since these elements empower every human being to strive to live and overcome their barriers.”
To meet a service-learning requirement, Sirin-Pichiya recently used his nursing knowledge to benefit the Cleveland community by partnering with a local Hispanic convenience store to provide basic medical care to Spanish-speaking residents.
“When customers came into the store, the store manager encouraged them to come to my booth for free health screenings,” said Sirin-Pichiya. “I took the customers’ vital signs and talked with them about basic nutrition and exercise information. I also explained the importance of regular health check-ups and health screenings to these customers, and gave them information about clinics or doctors who provide bilingual and/or low-cost health services to patients.
Sirin-Pichiya said he chose this project and target population not just because he falls under this category, but because he is familiar with the socioeconomic, sociodemographic, and educational background of this population.
“A great majority of them do not understand the importance of regular check-ups, or fear that they are not able to communicate their needs with health care providers because of language barriers, or fear that they can’t afford access to health care. A lot of them come from areas where health education is not taken as a priority. Education is important for me, so educating this population about simple things they can do to prevent major illnesses will help them to be productive citizens and be able to provide for their families.”
It was this service-learning effort that led one of his instructors to tell him about the Students in Service Awards scholarship through the Washington Campus Compact. SISA, as it is also known, recognizes outstanding college students whose volunteer service positively impacts society and inspires others to serve. Sirin-Pichiya was selected as a semifinalist, and ultimately won “Fan Favorite” which was determined purely by supporter votes. He received a $2,500 scholarship, and CSCC also received a $2,500 grant to support civic engagement programs.
Nancy Thomas, assistant professor of nursing, said, “We are so proud of Rigo. He has been a determined, diligent nursing student. He carefully planned and carried out his service learning project with the goal of helping the Hispanic community. He accomplished his goal and then some.
The Cleveland State family enjoyed joining together to vote for our fan favorite: Rigo. With the matching funds that came to Cleveland State as a result of his award, we hope to continue service-learning projects that will help the Hispanic people in our area.”
Service-Learning Coordinator Sherry Holloway, said, “Rigo is an extraordinary person. I believe his compassion for people led him to the nursing profession. That same compassion inspired a service-learning project that made a difference in the health and well-being of many Hispanic people in Bradley County. While humble in his acceptance of recognition, Rigo is a worthy recipient of the Washington Campus Compact Students in Service Award. He truly is a Fan Favorite!”
Sirin-Pichiya said his family in Guatemala was very supportive of him throughout this competition. Some of them wanted to vote for him, but did not have access to the Internet, so they had to go out of their way to find computers to be able submit their votes.
For some of them, that meant traveling by bus to a city over two hours away to be able to cast their vote.
“I am so grateful for all of the support. I have family who live in Australia who also voted for me. And then of course, my wife and in-laws in the United State really supported me through their votes. I also have a nephew and his wife who live here in Cleveland who were a great encouragement and support by voting frequently for me. But lots of people, not just family members, voted for me. I have several friends all over the United States who voted for me. My wife’s co-workers at the Whirlpool Corporation were a great support in voting for me. And of course, the school’s faculty, staff, and other students played a big role in voting for me and helping me to win this competition and become the Fan Favorite.”
Sirin-Pichiya said he received a lot of support during the process of the competition with the Students in Service Awards. “I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Hite, the president of CSCC; Dr. Jerry Faulkner, vice president for Academic Affairs; Susan Webb-Curtis, director of Service-Learning; Sherry Holloway, Service-Learning coordinator; Nancy LaBine, dean of Health and Wellness; and Nancy Thomas, assistant Nursing professor, and each of the great Nursing professors that helped me along the way!”
Sirin-Pichiya was recently recognized for his achievement at the 14th Annual Continuums of Service Conference, a nationally recognized service and civic engagement conference in San Diego, where he not only received the Fan Favorite Award for the SISA competition, but also the President’s Volunteer Service Award for a disaster relief project that he designed and implemented last summer for the victims of Hurricane Agatha and a volcano explosion that occurred in Guatemala in June 2010.
“I’m not only thankful for winning this competition, I’m also very glad that CSCC received a $2,500 grant for supporting me through this project and scholarship application process,” stated Sirin-Pichiya. “This is very important because the school will be able to take this grant money and further improve and encourage the educational experiences of their students. Service-learning is so important for the academic development of every student. It is an opportunity to take knowledge from school and textbooks and be able to transfer that knowledge into real life experiences. It means taking classroom knowledge and making it relevant and meaningful in the lives of people in our local community, nation, and the global community.”
Although he is still unsure where he will transfer to finish his education, Sirin-Pichiya does plan on putting the money he received from SISA toward obtaining his bachelor’s degree in nursing one day. But, for now, he has other things on his mind — the NCLEX-RN board test that is coming up soon and the birth of his first child in July!
“At the moment, I have not firmly decided which field of nursing I want to work in yet. I am interested in so many areas, and the field of nursing is very broad. Overall, I’m very pleased that I conducted this service-learning project; it was a very good experience. The strategy we used was simple, yet the impact was amazing because we worked with them on their own turf. The great majority of the Spanish-speaking people I helped were very grateful. Yes, it was successful, but then again, this is like a drop of water in a desert. We need more bilingual health professional in our community to take an interest in this population and help them overcome the barriers to the basic treatments and screenings.”
Sirin-Pichiya plans to do just that.
For more information on the Cleveland State Service-Learning Program, visit the CSCC website at www.clevelandstatecc.edu/service_learning/ or contact Susan Webb-Curtis at 423-472-7141, ext. 718 or 1-800-604-CSCC, ext. 718.