RANLO––Perseverance is the byword of 2022 Gaston College graduate Linda Pineda-Sabas’s life.
The 27-year-old is among those earning an associate in science degree this month. And according to Gaston College’s marketing and public information department, Linda is the school’s recipient of the North Carolina Community College System Academic Excellence Award. She has overcome many setbacks to get where she is, including family tragedies, emigration and more.
As a child in Medellín, Colombia, Linda witnessed the murders of her biological father and her uncle. To escape further violence, her mother and stepfather brought her to America, and the family settled in New Jersey. Two years later, her brother was born, and Linda relished the role of big sister.
“It has always been in my nature to take care of others,” she said. “For this reason, I always wanted to become a doctor. My plan was to graduate high school and attend med school after college. But due to poor choices, that option was lost.”
When she was a junior in high school, Linda got pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. She stayed in school and was graduated with honors. She then went to a technical school and became a certified medical assistant.
Following a bad relationship, Linda found herself in a stable, loving relationship with a man who was a father. The two soon married, and with their children, they moved together to North Carolina. Linda says the plan was to offer their kids a better future. At 21, she had to get used to living hundreds of miles away from her family and everything she knew.
“But,” she said, “it was an adjustment I gladly made for my children.”
In 2016, with the encouragement and support of her husband, Linda started her first semester in the nursing program at Gaston College, taking Internet-based classes while caring for her children, including a newborn daughter. But her education had to be put on hold again due to scheduling conflicts. When her youngest child was 3, Linda started working at a non-profit medical clinic.
Her determination has paid off, and she has excelled at Gaston College. Linda’s anatomy and physiology teacher is Jodi Zieverink. Also her adviser, Zieverink told Linda to switch to an associate in science major and enter the SPARC program, which supports students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-related fields with scholarships, advice, networking and more.
Her nomination as Gaston College’s recipient of the Academic Excellence Award was a surprise.
“I was completely in shock when I received the e-mail,” Linda said. “I was also very grateful to the amazing professors that thought so highly of me to nominate me for such a great honor.”
Come August, she’ll enter the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. After she earns a bachelor’s degree in biology, she intends to enter into a physician’s assistant program.
“I will continue to set an example for my children in both the professional and personal aspects of life,” she said. “With my career, I hope to be able to give back to my community and improve my patients’ daily lives.”