Ashley Darden fought through anguish, tears, and self-doubt on her way to graduating from Malcolm X College—but she didn’t let them stop her. Instead, she carried her heavy book bag everywhere she went so that she could study, including carrying it to her job as a patient care technician at one of Chicago’s most prestigious hospitals.

Originally from Georgia, Ashley found out about Malcolm X’s nursing program after her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program instructor said she should think about becoming a nurse and check out Malcolm X. Just a few years later, in May 2022, she graduated from the college with her Associate of Applied Science in Nursing. Not only that, but she did it with honors.

“It wasn’t easy—all the study groups and the late nights. During nursing school, sometimes I thought about quitting, but my professors kept me motivated, especially Professor Ines Guillen,” she said. “From online learning to clinicals, they all guided me along the way. I finished, and I did it during the pandemic.”

While Ashley’s excited about her graduation, her college journey doesn’t end here. With her new associate degree, she plans on working as a nurse while earning her bachelor’s in nursing from UIC.