LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — From National Nurses Week to graduation season and to Mother's Day— we're in a season of reflection and celebration.
One Little Rock woman has been experiencing all of those emotional events at the same time. Though her journey to graduation hasn't been an easy one.
In fact, it got a lot harder at the end of March, but luckily her community stepped up to help her make it to this monumental moment.
"I was able to finally sleep like a full night without any stress," UA Little Rock Nursing Student, Paula Rocha said.
That stress relief is something a lot of students relate to when the school year comes to an end.
"I am so happy to be done. I am excited to start my career," Rocha added.
She will walk across the graduation stage on Saturday to receive her diploma, but she explained that her journey to get there has been anything but easy.
She's a mother of four and battled Lymphoma while in school.
Her most recent hurdle was losing her house in the tornado on March 31.
"We pretty much weren't able to live there after that. We had to move, we got a rental house. And you know, we've just been, it's been kind of a struggle ever since then. But we're finally getting back on our feet," Rocha explained.
She and her kids walked away without injuries, but she said they're still a little traumatized.
"It was definitely not something that I expected to happen that day," she said.
Now, she's taking it one day at a time getting used to her new normal and the community has made that a lot easier for her to do.
"We had, you know, our kid's school, my instructors, my friends, my family," Rocha said.
Even strangers reached out to help after the tornado.
"We're really happy that I'm graduating and that the tornado didn't affect that. So we're just, we feel really blessed," she added.
While she takes care of her kids at home, Rocha looks forward to taking care of patients every day on the job and to being like the nurses who helped in her cancer battle.
"Witnessing, you know, the impact they made on me, just inspired me to, you know, want to do the same thing for others and serve others," she described. "Just knowing that they're watching and that they look up to me, keeps me going for sure."
Rocha will soon start her nursing career at Baptist Health.