It’s been five years since a daughter, soon to earn her doctorate, asked her mother to do the honors of ‘hooding’ her. It’s been five years since a student learned she received a prominent scholarship with the help of her professor. And, it’s been five years since that mother and professor’s life was cut short.
In 2013, Lucy Sandoval, a New Mexico State University nursing professor for Dona Aña Community College, battled for a week in the hospital after being struck by a car. The day after Lucy Sandoval passed away, Brittany Barham-Guerrero, a nursing student at the time, received word she had received the Nightingale Nursing Scholarship awarded by the New Mexico Center for Nursing Excellence.
“It was the last thing we talked about before the accident,” Barham-Guerrero said, “I was thanking her again for writing my letter of recommendation. I just regret that I never got to tell her the good news.”
Barham-Guerrero had a special connection with Lucy Sandoval as did most of the DACC nursing students. Around the time of the accident, DACC faced accreditation challenges that eventually led those nursing students to merge into the nursing program at the NMSU Las Cruces campus.
“Many students feared what losing accreditation would mean, but Lucy made sure we were all informed,” Barham-Guerrero said. “She was very transparent about the entire process and held special meetings with us to answer any questions. She was my go-to; my mentor. Her office was always open to us.”
Five years later, Barham-Guerrero, now a critical care nurse at Memorial Medical Center, is still working to keep Lucy Sandoval’s memory alive. Soon after the accident, she reached out to the Sandoval family with an idea.
“She taught me how to look at someone as a whole person,” Barham-Guerrero said. “In nursing, there’s a tendency to forget that the people we help have feelings and a family on top of illness that we need to help treat. Lucy gave so much to everyone she came in contact with, and I wanted to start an NMSU nursing scholarship that would continue her impactful spirit for years to come.”
Called the ‘Lucy Montes-Sandoval Memorial Endowed Scholarship,’ Barham-Guerrero and Andrea Sandoval, Lucy’s daughter, and the Sandoval family joined forces to start raising the $15,000 needed by 2018 to fully fund a permanent endowment.
The money that supports an endowed scholarship is invested to achieve income that is then awarded as scholarships every year in perpetuity, creating a lasting legacy of giving for years to come. Now in its final year to reach the $15,000 mark, Andrea Sandoval says they still need $8,000 to finalize the endowment.
“When the scholarship was first started by Brittany, we were all trying to cope with the loss and putting the pieces of our lives back together,” Andrea Sandoval said. “I am currently an anesthesiologist, and at the time of her death, was finishing my last year of medical school. I asked her in December 2012 if she would be the person to ‘hood’ me at our graduation ceremony, an honor bestowed upon a graduating student’s mentor who also holds a doctorate or medical degree. She cried when I asked if she would accept this honor and enthusiastically agreed. She passed away not a month later and prior to being able to enjoy that moment. I would love now to be able to honor her by making this scholarship one that carries on.”
It is an honor Andrea Sandoval describes as one for a “stubborn and determined lady.” Raised in poverty in rural, eastern New Mexico, Lucy Sandoval graduated high school alongside a class of eight people. She never desired to attend college and took a housekeeping job soon after. Yet, her passions changed when she moved to Las Cruces and decided to pursue a nursing degree.
“She used to always tell me how difficult it was to go to college because her educational level was below what was expected for a typical high school graduate,” Andrea Sandoval said. “She had to take remedial-type classes and told me how much work she had to do just to get herself up to speed with her peers.”
She soon graduated with her bachelor’s degree and began working as a registered nurse on the nightshift to continue her educational journey. While managing being a mother of three and a wife, attending sporting events, cleaning house, making dinner and more, Lucy Sandoval chased after a clinical nursing specialist degree that eventually turned into a doctorate in psychology.
“Looking back, I just think how crazy it all seems that she was able to do that,” Andrea Sandoval said.
Now as Dr. Lucy Sandoval, she took on many careers as a counseling psychologist at NMSU, in private practice and within the local school district. About two years prior to the accident, she had started her most passionate work yet at DACC.
“It was evident with her passing that she had already made such a huge mark there,” Andrea Sandoval said. “When I would speak to her about work, she was constantly bouncing ideas off of me for ways to make her lectures more engaging and fun or impactful.”
“Lucy’s Nurses,” the self-titled cohort of DACC nursing students mentored by Lucy Sandoval, remember those classes to this day, gaining insights and perspectives that Barham-Guerrero says remain five years later. In that timeframe, the group has hosted Zumba fundraisers and asked many family and friends to give in hopes of raising the money needed for the endowment. With $8,000 yet to go, Barham-Guerrero and Andrea Sandoval now ask for the community’s help.
“This is not only a way to honor a mentor, friend and mother, but also a way for all of us who loved her most to finally heal,” Barham-Guerrero said, “A gift of any size to the scholarship moves us one step closer to making sure her legacy continues in a way that helps NMSU nursing students pursue a career she loved so much.”
For more information on upcoming fundraising events, please visit Lucy’s Nurses Facebook page. If you would like to make a gift directly to this scholarship, visit giving.nmsu.edu/lucysandoval.html
Author: Angel Mendez – NMSU