Alumni Tell It Like It Is

Simeon Gayle headshot

Simeon Gayle, RN, Class of 2018

Talk to any nursing student and they will tell you how academically challenging a nursing program can be. During their nursing school years, most students will tell you that they did not see their friends or family very much.

Simeon Gayle was working full-time at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, attending school, and raising two younger brothers. He was managing household logistics, and overseeing his siblings’ schooling, along with his own, and holding down his full-time job.

At the time, he was working as a Patient Care Assistant at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, which is where he first heard about the Phillip School of Nursing. He had wanted to become a nurse for some time, but he needed to work. He completed the nursing program’s pre-requisite courses on a part-time basis in the evenings at a local community college. He applied to three nursing programs and was accepted to all three, “But the Phillips School of Nursing was my first choice because it felt personal,” he said. “I came to an Information Session and I knew this was the only place I wanted to be.”

Mr. Gayle joined the associate degree program in the Fall of 2017. He continued to work full-time throughout the program. He became part of the first cohort of students accepted into a new, federally-funded program at the school—the Workforce Inclusion in Nursing (WIN) program. The program’s major goal is to enhance the recruitment and retention of underrepresented ethnic groups in nursing. As part of that program, he received a partial scholarship and a monthly stipend. “That financial assistance was a godsend,” he said.

The next 15-months flew by. Mr. Gayle graduated in December 2018 with the highest honors and served as class valedictorian. His family, friends, and past and future supervisors were there to share the moment. “Never allow unforeseen obstacles or anyone to hinder your success—instead use whatever difficulties may arise as a catalyst to move forward in life,” he said during his valedictorian speech. His two brothers have also grown up hearing those words, and are doing well. Both brothers are teachers and continuing a family tradition of pursuing advanced education. One brother is working on his second master’s degree and the other brother is working on his doctorate.

Today, Simeon Gayle is working as a registered nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. With all that he has accomplished in just two short years you might think that he would be ready for some well-deserved “me-time.” Instead, after graduation he immediately enrolled in the school’s RN to BSN program. “And I haven’t stopped yet,” he said. “I’m currently on the waiting list to join a Nurse Anesthetist program.”

Patty Rojas headshot

Patricia Rojas, Associate of Applied Science in Nursing, Class of 2017

The importance of education was instilled in Patricia (Patty) Rojas from an early age. Her mother moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic to provide her children with the best opportunity for success. In high school, Ms. Rojas was a member of the National Honor Society, and by the time she joined Phillips School of Nursing, she had already earned a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Biology from Columbia University. 

After graduation, she worked in the non-profit sector where she trained college students to become advocates for education reform and created communications plans centered on social media.

Ms. Rojas loved the work she was doing, but it was her mother’s open-heart surgery that confirmed her calling to become a nurse. When her mother became ill, Ms. Rojas experienced first-hand how frightening and difficult it is to be in the emergency room—and not speak the language.

She stood by her mother’s side and translated back and forth. She said her mother’s surgery was truly a life-altering experience and entered Phillips in the fall of 2015. 

To help pay for school, Ms. Rojas works two days a week as a Nurse Assistant at a local hospital in the Bronx. One day while on duty, Ms. Rojas was with a patient during her last few minutes of life. She credits the education she received at Phillips with helping her to communicate appropriately with the bereaved family. “It was left to me,” Ms. Rojas said, “to break the news to the family and to share with them their loved one's last moments.  It was very difficult, but knowing that I was handling it properly, helped me to feel good about what I was doing.”

Since graduating Phillips in June 2017, Ms. Rojas has served on several national nursing organization committees, has mentored nursing students, and has co-authored pieces published in two nursing journals. Ms. Rojas is a full-time Ambulatory Care Nurse in Washington Heights and is currently enrolled in a nursing PhD program. We have a feeling she may rejoin Phillips again someday soon as an instructor!