‘Now We’re Students Together’: A Happy Coincidence at UVA Nursing

Nursing graduate student Musume Franks was on her way to attend an early morning class in the basement of the University of Virginia Claude Moore’s nursing education building in late October when a cluster of eyes—green, almond-shaped, and at that moment focused on a block of biology notes The minute – I stopped her in her tracks.

Franks stopped and slid back and slipped on her mask, her heart starting to pound in her chest. “She is young and beautiful and has these eyes’, I later thought. ‘I recognized them right away.’

Eyes were for first-year nursing student Anna Aguirre, who had last seen Franks—a seventh-grade teacher—six years ago at Lanier Middle School, a magnet charter school in Houston, when Aguirre was thirteen.

“I heard her voice and thought, ‘There’s no way,’” Aguirre said of the meeting. “I looked up and remembered one of my favorite teachers’ eyes, because she was so kind. It was unbelievable to see her here.”

The two first met when Aguirre was one of about twenty students in Franks’ biology class. The year was 2014, and Franks was determined to teach science “the way,” she explains, “I wish you would teach me that.”

This means dissecting chicken wings to see how the opposing muscles work. Complex art projects focusing on bones and muscle groups. And constant closeness to the teacher—important for Aguirre, a dyslexic educator.

“If I ever had a question, she would pass me by, maybe modify the work, or explain it differently,” Aguirre recalls. “Dyslexia can feel isolated, because I felt behind my other classmates – and being in this class felt like I was on the same level, not behind. I was fine. It was perfect.” she Make it perfect. She is the reason why I love science, and why I started to love STEM. “

A first-generation Mexican-American college student and Competitive diver and water polo player during high schoolAguirre is one of several Houston-based Posse Scholars who arrived at UVA this fall. The youngest of three children, she says her family members are her “biggest supporters”.

“Receiving the Posse Scholarship has felt like you have been told that all your hard work has been seen,” she said. “It is the most rewarding thing to say, ‘We believe in you,’ that you deserve this.”

The Posse Foundation—which connects outstanding students from across the United States with full scholarships at highly ranked colleges and universities—was part of former President Barack Obama’s 2010 Nobel Prize, and is one of 10 institutions he has chosen to recognize. Over the past 32 years, it has supported more than 10,000 Posse Scholars with $1.6 billion worth of scholarships.

Franks’ life began in the Middle East where she was raised, the daughter of two worlds, before coming to Virginia during high school. After a stint in pre-medicine, Franks switched to modern languages, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UVA University in 1991 before teaching Spanish and science in middle and high schools across the country and raising her children.

But even as I loved teaching and thrived in the classroom, the itch kept working as a caregiver and therapist. When she and her husband moved to Charlottesville in 2018 — the same year her father fell ill and taught Spanish at Walker Elementary High School — she heard timidly about UVA’s Clinical Nurse Leader Program, a full two-year program. Time, Fast Track MSc program to Nursing is for individuals who have obtained at least a baccalaureate degree in another field. Intrigued, Franks searched Google, quickly applied and gained entry, and after taking the prerequisites, he entered school again, at the age of 53, just as COVID happened.

Although “Zoom is totally embarrassing when you don’t know anyone,” Franks described the program as “amazingly supportive” and the lessons and practices are expansive and meaningful. Franks said the proximity to nursing faculty, medical practitioners and mentors and “excellent clinical experiences” have been strong, particularly during the pandemic.

“It’s so moving to see the nurses at work,” she said. “Watching ICU nurses working with COVID patients makes you realize how skilled they are – and how much I still have to learn.”

And while neither Franks nor Aguirre ever imagined they would call back (“I follow Mrs. Franks on Instagram,” Aguirre said, “but I never really cared where she was. I was‘), the serendipity of the nursing seems appropriate.

“Nursing is like what she and I have: a little sacred thing,” said Franks, who is getting her master’s degree in nursing next spring. “I knew her when she was just a teen; it’s a special connection. She comes from a very close family, and she’s far from home, so for me, it’s good to be here for her if she needs me – advice, a trip to the airport, all I can do.” “.

For Aguirre, reconnecting with her teacher adds to the connections she’s already made with UVA in the past few months: with her Houston classmates, Posse scholars, classmates, and educators. Wearing a Houston Astros shirt, Aguirre said seeing the Franks again “brought a smile to my face,” to the delight of her former teacher. “Now we are students here together.”

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