Berkeley Today Stories
Stephany Vazquez shares the March of Dimes® mission at Berkeley College in Clifton, where she is pursuing a Patient Care Technician degree.
Berkeley College Student Becomes a Voice for March of Dimes®
When Stephany Vazquez’s water broke 10 weeks early, her world began to fall apart. Her son, Jaithen, was born on March 10, 2013, and suffered from respiratory distress syndrome, a breathing disorder common in premature infants.
Ms. Vazquez and her son spent 43 days in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Hackensack University Medical Center. During that time, she found support through the March of Dimes®, a foundation that offers information and comfort to premature babies and families in more than 114 hospitals across the country.
“The March of Dimes was a huge support for me during the time Jaithen was in the NICU,” said Ms. Vazquez, a resident of Passaic, NJ. “When I needed questions answered or just someone to talk to they were a phone call away.”
Now Jaithen is a happy and healthy 2 year old, and Ms. Vazquez tells her story to other families in need as a March of Dimes® Mission Mom. She is pursuing an Associate’s degree to become a Patient Care Technician and has brought her mission to Berkeley College, where she raises funds and awareness on campus.
Berkeley College has been involved with the March of Dimes® for several years. In 2011, the foundation received a portion of the $80,000 raised for charities in honor of the 80th anniversary of the College. For the past several years, the Berkeley College School of Health Studies has checked vital signs and screened individuals for high blood pressure during the health fair portion of local March for Babies walks. Students and staff participate in the walk annually through Berkeley Cares, an initiative that supports charities in the areas of food, shelter, health and student success.
“It is wonderful to see Stephany light up and take charge of something she is passionate about,” said Ashante Barnes, Berkeley College Director of Student Development and Campus Life, Clifton. “She is motivated by her son’s experience and her love for him. Her work truly makes an impact in the lives of the students here.”
In addition to her work at Berkeley College, Ms. Vazquez also represented the March of Dimes® at a 2014 United Airlines sponsorship event at Newark Liberty International Airport, where she shared her story with hundreds of attendees.
“The souls I think I touched with my speech in that conference room – it was the most beautiful moment that has happened to me,” said Ms. Vazquez.
“Stephany’s story helps other parents who are feeling lost know that they are not alone,” said Lisa Koss, March of Dimes® Family Team Specialist. “She helps others understand that real people are affected by preterm birth, infant mortality and birth defects.”
Ms. Vazquez is preparing for an upcoming March for Babies walk on April 26 in Wayne, NJ. She will complete her Patient Care Technician degree at Berkeley College this year, and hopes to return to the NICU as a Registered Nurse in the future.
“Stephany has a lot of spirit and a great inner strength,” said Ms. Koss. “Her experience as the mom of a preterm child will give her that extra gentle touch and will make her an exemplary nurse.”
Ms. Vazquez said Jaithen is her inspiration in everything she does.
“My son is a soldier who fought a tough war,” she said. “In my eyes, he is a warrior.”