By Jack Quirk

I think it was about 2018 we were getting ready for a musical at the school and I asked for some help with props and technical things.  One of the girls who volunteered was a shy 10th grader who was soft-spoken and a little reserved. But when this girl was given a task she got after it and saw it to completion.  This girl was Mariana Gonzalez.  We affectingly call her “Speedy Gonzalez”. During the rest of high school, Mariana interned with our company and then worked full-time for a short time.  I was always hopeful that she would select journalism as her major because she was very good at her All About Hennessey assignments. 

But her heart was set on nursing and headed off to UCO to get her degree. But that start was not easy. Mariana and her class graduated in 2020 at the height of COVID-19 and started college with online classes. The thing that I admired about Mariana was her drive, dedication, and focus. 

Throughout her time at UCO, she became heavily involved on campus and joined the Sigma Lambda Sorority where she held three executive positions. She was also a part of and two-time executive member of Leaders of Tomorrow. 

In her last year of college, she was elected and inducted into Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nurses, an organization that can only be joined by being in the top percent of the nursing graduating class. Lastly, she served as an executive member of the College of Nursing Student Nurse Association. 

Additional achievements included receiving a clinical excellence award given to a select individual from UCO nursing students who show excellence in care, and critical thinking, and exemplify the role of a future nurse during clinicals. She also received the Distinguished Service Graduate award for completing 400 service hours throughout her time in college with several non-profits in the metro area.

Gonzalez states, “My proudest accomplishment was being able to finish a 4.5-5 year program in 3.5 years. At times it was strange how much younger I was from my peers but I know the reason that I was able to get ahead in my career was because of the amazing community and school I had growing up. Being a first-generation graduate was difficult but, from words of encouragement and guidance to the scholarships I received from Hennessey, I am grateful to everyone that has played a part in my journey.” Gonzalez has accepted an offer to start as an ICU nurse this upcoming year.

All of her hard work, long hours and never giving up allowed Mariana to graduate debt-free.  That shy girl I first met several years ago is now a driven leader who will go forward and help those in need.  

I want to thank Mariana Gonzalez, RN for allowing me to be part of your journey. You have inspired me.