A Mission Hill resident has been honored with the 10th annual SkillWorks Award and scholarship for her “incredible work ethic” to become the first college graduate in her family.
Natalie Diaz is currently enrolled in the nursing program at Northeastern University and has already completed her associate’s degree at Bunker Hill Community College as well as her bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences from UMass Boston. She managed to do that while maintaining a full-time job and caring for her 8-year-old son as a single parent.
The award and scholarship were a total surprise, she told the Gazette. She had been instructed to come to the anniversary party because of her involvement with SkillWorks, and had no idea the organization was planning on honoring her, she said.
“Any time I felt overwhelmed by school or work, they would find help for me” in the form of tutors and coaches, she said. “I didn’t find out [about the achievement award] until I got to the party.”
Diaz started taking one class at a time at Bunker Hill while a full-time employee of Boston Children’s Hospital.
“My [SkillWorks] coach would say, ‘If nursing is what you want to do, find a way to do it,’’ Diaz said.
So she did. She got her associate’s and bachelor’s degrees and is now working on a master’s degree in nursing at Northeastern University. She has twice had to decrease her work hours to accommodate her classes.
“It’s been a long road, but hopefully it’ll all be worth it,” she said. “It always makes me feel good that I broke the cycle of poverty” by graduating from college, she added.
SkillWorks is an initiative to helping low-income individuals get jobs in Boston and the Commonwealth in by education, training, increasing access and helping businesses hire and manage their workforces.