April 16 was Destiny McDonald’s favorite day of the year – NIU Cares Day. McDonald…
Senior nursing major Luis Flores is featured in this month’s issue of Latino Leaders magazine. Flores’ accomplishments in bringing cultural awareness to the NIU campus, as well has his academic success, earned him a story in the magazine’s health issue.
The article is re-published below.
Luis Flores: Doing the right thing
Ask most college students today what their favorite movie was when they were 8 years old, and they’ll likely name “Finding Nemo” or some other Disney classic.
For Luis Flores of Oswego, Illinois, that movie was Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.”
Even at that young age, he was struck by the main character’s desire to always do what was right, even when doing so was difficult. For Flores, a senior nursing student at Northern Illinois University, that has translated into a busy schedule since he arrived on campus. He balances the intense demands of majoring in nursing with what he believes is an obligation to serve his fellow NIU Huskies, especially the Latino community.
He does much of that work through the Latino Resource Center, which he discovered as a first-year. There he received mentoring from older students and took advantage of programs that taught him study skills. Today he serves as a mentor himself to nursing students, many of whom are not Latino.
“I always tell them they can do it. If I can do it, they can do it. It’s a level playing field,” Flores said.
Latinos do face other challenges when it comes to college, he said.
“Getting out of your comfort zone and going to college itself is hard. Leaving from where you grew up to pursue a degree – a lot of people in our community wouldn’t do it. Just transitioning to college is hard,” he said.
Flores believes it’s up to people like him to change that perception. “It’s our responsibility to spread that knowledge down so more people go to college from different backgrounds,” he said.
In addition to mentoring, he is active in his fraternity, Sigma Lambda Beta, helping to bring cultural awareness to campus through events such as the Miss Latina Cultural Pageant. He also was recently elected to the senate of the NIU Student Association where he works to improve the campus as a whole.
Those activities are his way of paying forward what others have done for him, he says. “The instructors and mentors who have guided me during my stay at NIU have given me the support and the push to be successful. Now I want to motivate the next generation of students to pursue their dreams.”
While working on behalf of the community, he has not neglected his studies. He maintains a 3.35 GPA in a challenging program; has excelled as a member of the University Honors Program; and along the way has picked up honors including the Kevin D. Knight Sophomore Leadership Award, and the Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus scholarship for academic excellence and leadership.
That record of achievement inside and outside of the classroom has people expecting big things of Flores after graduation. He is preparing for the extra challenges of being a male nurse and a Latino.
“People will look at me like I’m a doctor. Patients, especially women, may not be comfortable sharing information with me. I’ll face microaggressions and people questioning if I am even fit for this job,” he said.
His strategy: “I’m making sure that if I’m going to be questioned that I DO know. I will show that I’m qualified by giving the greatest care in the world.”
Flores aspires to work in cardiology or emergency room nursing. And although he is bilingual, he plans to pursue an associate degree in Spanish so he can speak eloquently; using the correct medical terminology – and not jargon – to communicate with patients.
His professors know he’s on the right track.
“Luis Flores will be a difference-maker in health care in the future,” says Mary Rudnicki, a member of the faculty at the NIU School of Nursing. “He has the potential to be a catalyst in the promotion of inclusivity and culturally sensitive health care.”
Flores has a few ideas for those already in the position to hire him and his fellow soon-to-be graduates.
“Take advantage of the opportunity to hire new grads. They are very passionate about what they want to do,” he said. He’s no exception. “I have ideas and I’m excited to do them.”