Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 Student Highlight - October 13, 2023
Get to know: Yesenia MaddafordOct 13, 2023
Story by Abigail Castro
Yesenia is in her first year of the CU Anschutz Physical Therapy Program and grew up in El Paso, Texas, where her family and the surrounding Chicano community inspired her to pursue a career helping others.
Yesenia's father served in the Army, while her mother took care of her and her three younger siblings; together, they taught Yesenia to be a role model for her younger siblings and to care for all others around her. "My parents instilled in me important values that pushed me to be the best version of myself," she says.
Yesenia is also inspired by her grandfather, who she describes as "the perfect example of who I want to be like." She continues, "He worked the night shift to provide for his family, and although it was not a lot of money, his family was always taken care of. He was the man that would give his kids the shirt off his back in the freezing rain just to keep them a bit warmer. He made sacrifices that allowed my mom to have a better life. I believe these values are often shared amongst Hispanic communities, and I hope to pass on these values to others."
In high school, Yesenia decided to get her license in vocational nursing. After a short time working as a nurse, she decided to switch to a career in physical therapy — but was waitlisted by two out of the three schools she applied to. So, she decided to explore other career options. "Two years later, my mom had a stroke," she says. "She had a brain aneurysm that ruptured, causing her to be hospitalized for over a month." Though all of the hospital staff played a critical role in her mom's recovery, Yesenia saw her mom become the happiest when she began working with a physical therapist to learn to walk again.
"After seeing her joy in her recovery, I knew I had to try to apply for physical therapy again," Yesenia says. "I want to do for others what my mom’s PT did for her. I want to help improve the lives of others in a way that is meaningful for me and for them."
Yesenia was drawn to CU Anschutz because of the emphasis it places on the value of diversity and culture. She plans to be an active member of the school community and to volunteer with the DAWN clinic. Just as she was inspired by her parents and grandfather, Yesenia hopes to inspire more prospective Hispanic students to take the steps toward becoming a physical therapist.
She tells those students: "Resilience will take you farther than you could ever imagine. Life will give you challenges, and at times it may seem impossible to overcome them all. What matters is not how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get back up. Remember why you want to be in healthcare and use that each time to pick yourself up and move forward. You are deserving and worthy, and your kind heart will take you far."