Achieving a Dream: Cindy Mont’s Path to Pre-Med at UC San Diego
Imagining a different life or a better job, for many people, might seem beyond reach, or too difficult to attain. But for Cindy Mont, achieving a dream is possible, with strong determination and hard work. In some ways, Cindy had odds stacked against her: English is not her primary language, she’s a second-generation American of immigrant parents, she will be the first person in her family to graduate from college, and paying for school falls on her own shoulders. None of that, however, stopped Cindy from pushing through, and making new possibilities happen for herself and her family. She graduated from high school in 2021, and in only a short time, she has already completed community college, a full medical assisting program at Bay Area Medical Academy, and she even transferred as a pre-med student to UC San Diego. Here’s the story of how Cindy made her dream happen.
“I had known that I wanted to go into the medical field, but wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do,” says Cindy. “I was 17 when I found Bay Area Medical Academy, but I had to wait a year to apply, because you have to be 18 and have a high school diploma.”
Cindy’s parents are from Guatemala, and Spanish was the first language she spoke at home. “They’re both hard workers, and they instilled that value in me,” Cindy says of her mom, Dayra, and dad, Heiner. Cindy learned English at school, having taken English as a Second Language (ESL) courses since kindergarten.
“I’m Hispanic, many of my friends are also Hispanic. And we have the mindset that our parents came to this country and we’re not going to waste that opportunity,” Cindy says of her own work ethic and personal motivation. “A lot of my friends are also very hard working.”
“It was hard for me to navigate the school system, and I learned to be my own advocate,” Cindy recalls of her early education. “I did that throughout high school, and when I talked to the school counselors.”
While still only a sophomore, at Westmoor High School in Daly City, Cindy gained a headstart on college by concurrently enrolling in classes at Skyline community college in San Bruno. She strategized saving money on college in a clever way. “You could take as many college units as you wanted, but after a certain number you had to pay,” Cindy recalls. “So by staying under that number I had free college classes, and knocked those out.”
“When I turned 18 I already had my contacts at BAMA,” says Cindy about Bay Area Medical Academy. “I was ready to apply and go straight into the program, and I enrolled in the 3-in-1 program for Medical Assisting, Phlebotomy, and Electrocardiogram (EKG).”
Knowing that she would have to self-finance her university education, and wanting to pursue a career in medicine, BAMA seemed like a natural choice. This was an opportunity to get her foot in the door in the medical field, and also to get real-world experience in healthcare. BAMA has had a longstanding reputation for helping to place graduates in careers at some of the Bay Area’s best-known medical providers, including Kaiser, Stanford Health, Sutter, UCSF, Umoja Health, Unidos En Salud, and the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
“I love being hands-on, not sitting behind a computer,” Cindy says about her decision to choose Bay Area Medical Academy. “I want to be a physician’s assistant or doctor, and in my research, I learned I needed some experience in the clinical field. People are only willing to hire someone with certifications. I needed experience and to start doing things in medicine, before transferring to university. So I decided I would go to BAMA.”
While enrolled in the nine-month Medical Assistant certification program at BAMA, Cindy worked part-time as a swim instructor, to help pay for school. Through the BAMA financial aid office, she researched additional funding opportunities and applied to every grant and scholarship that was available. Cindy won and was ultimately awarded the annual BAMA High School scholarship amounting to over $10,000.
“My instructor, Ms. Earby, I absolutely loved her,” Cindy recalls about her first day in class at BAMA. “She got one of the students who had been there a longer while to teach me the basics, like taking vitals, taking a patients’ history – and this was all on the first day. She went on to teach me the more difficult things, like how to take blood pressure manually with a stethoscope and sphygmomanometer.”
“Since I was in class during COVID-19, a lot of our class was run live on Zoom, but we would meet in-person on Tuesdays for our clinical days,” says Cindy. The pandemic presented a unique learning opportunity when students were asked to help provide COVID-19 testing and vaccines in San Francisco’s Mission District in February 2022, through a partnership with UCSF and Unidos en Salud. “I wanted to get my hands on something I was very interested in. Instead of labs on campus we would get our experience there, in the Mission, COVID-19 testing and administering vaccinations in the community.”
“I was able to communicate with the patients in Spanish. They expressed their gratitude that I was able to speak in Spanish,” Cindy says of her experience at the Mission testing center. “Especially knowing that the Mission area is predominantly Hispanic, I felt a need to be there. My family has been connected to that community.” Cindy’s work was even spotlighted in the newspaper, with a photo and caption in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Juggling work, family commitments, and two schools, Cindy finished her lower division undergraduate courses at Skyline, and graduated from Bay Area Medical Academy in August 2022. BAMA placed Cindy in an externship at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, and the BAMA career office connected her with job opportunities at employers like UCSF Medical Center and BayPLS, which provides services such as phlebotomy and community-focused COVID vaccine and testing clinics.
And what is Cindy Mont up to today? She transferred to the pre-med program at the University of California, San Diego, where she is on-track to graduate with the class of 2024.
“I am in the Bachelor of Science in Public Health program with a concentration in Medicine Sciences,” says Cindy, who now has many new opportunities for her career. “I enjoy the women’s health area, maternal or child health. I would like to be an OBGYN. I am thinking about going to medical school, it’s my top option, or Physician’s Assistant school.”
“I love it!” Cindy says about the change and adjustment moving from Northern California to San Diego. “I’m far from my family, but what helps me and gives me the confidence to be okay with being here, is that at home I was very independent and did a lot of things on my own. I feel okay with the distance. I know my parents are only a phone call away.”
“With the medical assisting training at BAMA, I saw for myself that I would not mind going into the field,” Cindy credits her experience at the Bay Area Medical Academy in helping her on her path. Cindy’s own advice to someone considering a program at BAMA is to have, “motivation, and stick to it.”