Passion + Planning = Success
Some students feel nervous about life after high school because they’re not sure what comes next. For Adi Valencia, the idea of graduating and living on her own is exciting, because she has a clear vision of her next steps.
“It’s a little scary because when you live on your own there’s a lot to figure out for yourself. But if you let fear hold you back, you’ll never move forward in life. I feel ready to do this,” said Valencia.
Reaching out instead of giving up.
Valencia, age 18, moved from California to Hermiston, Oregon for her final year of high school. She started with high hopes, but nothing seemed to go her way at first. She applied for jobs that didn’t work out, and her living situation was stressful. Valencia thought about returning to California. Instead, she reached out for support.
In December 2022, she shared her frustration with a teacher. The teacher referred Valencia to Youth Transition Program (YTP) specialist Nicole Depew. Once Valencia and Depew connected, they worked together to define Valencia’s goals. She wanted a job that matched her interest in taking care of people, with a paycheck that would allow her to move into an apartment of her own. Once the ball got rolling and the plan started to take shape, as Valencia said, “things really started to happen.”
Depew helped Valencia establish the services she’d need after graduation, like medical insurance and other benefits. Then she spotted an opening for a caregiver position at Ashley Manor, a senior living home. Valencia interviewed for the position and started work a few days later.
“I was surprised how quickly it all happened. They said they don’t usually hire people right away but they liked the passion I showed for taking care of people,” she said.
Caregiving as a career
Before moving to Hermiston, Valencia spent time with her grandmother. She saw the level of help that her grandmother needed as she aged, and realized what a difference good care makes in the lives of people who need extra help. She learned that caregiving is a calling that takes commitment and compassion.
“The work is hard but everyday I try to do my job with love. I want the people I work for to feel loved, especially in their last days,” said Valencia. The residents at Ashley Manor are elderly, many with memory loss and dementia. She calls the residents she works with “my ladies” and says that time with her ladies is the best part of her job.
“When I see joy on the faces of my ladies, that lets me know I am on the right track. Every day when I go to work I get excited—I think, ‘Today is going to be a good day.’”
Beyond the emotional rewards of caregiving, these jobs offer growth potential as well. Depew noted that many senior living facilities offer their own certification programs for medical technicians and certified nursing assistants (CNAs). That is huge for small towns, like Hermiston,
“Especially in a small town like ours, where people may not have access to certification programs—this kind of in-house training makes a huge difference. Having the option to grow professionally without going to a separate school makes the caretaking field more available,” said Depew.
Building an independent life
Valencia is currently working toward certification as a medical technician. After high school graduation, she’ll begin the certified nursing assistant (CNA) program. And because Ashley Manor has a large number of patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, she’s receiving special training in that area as well. She’s begun applying for apartments to rent and expects to find her new home by early summer.
Her persistence continues to impress Depew. “When Adi first came to me, she knew she wanted to build an independent life. Now she is working step by step toward that goal. She’s like that expression ‘find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ She finds caregiving so rewarding that it’s not like work. I’m always so impressed with her enthusiasm,” said Depew.