From Dartmouth to public health, alumna paying it forward to the community

Since she graduated from Cristo Rey St. Martin in 2010, Paola Cazares has graduated from Dartmouth College, run the Ivy League institution’s Spanish speaking Affinity House and currently is working at a primary care clinic in Waukegan as a medical scribe and clinical information specialist. Her goal: to go to medical school and become a physician.

Cazares, who grew up in a working class Mexican household in Waukegan, is driven and inspired by her parents and their 10-hour day commitment to hard work and creating a bright future for their four children.

In her current role at Oak Street Health in Waukegan, she is fulfilling her mission to make a difference in health care, specifically public health and giving back to the people in Waukegan. She’s passionate about the role she is playing in preventative medicine.

“Culturally, people usually go to their doctor once they are sick, not to prevent getting sick,” she says. “I feel like this shift in ideas makes a huge difference in the Latino community I am happy I get to play a small part in it.”

Like many of the CRSM graduates, Paola underscores the importance of “collective success,” that we are a community working together to reach back into the community and ignite change. She is the first of four siblings to attend CRSM.

The lessons she learned at CRSM defined her life.

“At CRSM I learned the value of professionalism, and being able to interact in a work environment,” she says. “This is huge for job interviews and internships. People are very impressed when 18 and 19-year-olds can thrive in a professional environment.”

She also appreciates the importance of community.

“Being that CRSM was such a small community while I was there, I learned to value the importance of friendships,” she says. “I was able to find a strong, supportive group of friends in college and I am also still friends with people from CRSM. It feels nice knowing that I can always come back to CRSM for support.”

Now that she’s finished her first phase of her studies toward becoming a physician, she’s relishing in the breathing space and freedom of being able to read, a hobby she really enjoys.

Her advice for CRSM students:

“Ask for help! My main advice to students is to never be afraid to ask for help and use your resources. Ask questions, speak to a lot of different people. There are so many resources for support in college and career guidance, and people are so committed to help, so do not let yourself feel alone.

My other piece of advice is to aim for the top. Don’t be afraid to apply to colleges that are “reach schools”, do not be afraid to try out for a particular team or apply for a specific scholarship. You bring a very unique and important perspective to colleges, and when you can value that, other people will as well.