Gaston College graduate prevails over adversities to succeed
Linda Pineda-Sabas receives Academic Excellence Award
Perseverance is the byword of 2022 Gaston College graduate Linda Pineda-Sabas’ life. The 27-year-old will earn an Associate in Science degree and is the College’s recipient of the North Carolina Community College System’s Academic Excellence Award despite facing family tragedies, emigration and other setbacks in her life.
As a child in Medellin, Colombia, Pineda-Sabas witnessed the murders of her biological father and her uncle. To escape further violence, her mother and stepfather brought her to the United States and the family settled in New Jersey. Two years later, her brother was born and Pineda-Sabas relished the role of big sister.
“It has always been in my nature to take care of others,” she said. “For this reason, I always wanted to become a doctor. My plan was to graduate high school and attend med school after college, but due to poor choices that option was lost.” When she was a junior in high school, Pineda-Sabas got pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. She stayed in school, graduating with honors, then went to a technical school and became a certified medical assistant.
Following a toxic and abusive relationship that she left when it became dangerous, Pineda-Sabas found herself in a stable, loving relationship with a man who also had a child. “Jhon and I decided to move together with our children to North Carolina so we could offer them a better future,” she said. “At 21, I was living 628 miles away from family and everything I knew, but it was an adjustment I gladly made for my children.”
With the encouragement and support of her husband, she started her first semester in the nursing program at Gaston College in 2016, taking classes online while caring for her children, including a newborn daughter. Her education had to be put on hold again due to scheduling conflicts but, when her youngest child was three, Pineda-Sabas started working at a non-profit medical clinic.
The onset of COVID-19 in 2020 presented another challenge. Due to pandemic-related school and daycare closings, Pineda-Sabas reluctantly left her job to homeschool her children and she took that as an opportunity to return to school and give her children “an example of determination during difficult, emotional, and scary times.”
That determination has paid off. Since returning to Gaston College, Pineda-Sabas coped with a COVID-related death in her N.J. family and the realization that earning her nursing degree would take much longer than she’d anticipated. She has, however, excelled. On the advice and guidance of Jodi Zieverink, her anatomy and physiology instructor and mentor, she switched to the Associate in Science major and entered the SPARC program, which supports students in STEM-related fields with scholarships, mentorship, networking and more.
Her nomination as Gaston College’s recipient of the Academic Excellence Award was a surprise. “I was completely in shock when I received the email,” Pineda-Sabas said. “I was also very grateful to the amazing professors that thought so highly of me to nominate me for such a great honor.”
Pineda-Sabas will enter the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the fall. After she earns her bachelor’s in biology, she intends to enter into a Physician Assistant program. “I will continue to set an example for my children in both professional and personal aspects of life,” she said. “With my career, I hope to be able to give back to my community and improve my patients’ daily life.”