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FROM LEFT: Joe Cortez, Francesco Cortez and Yolanda Machado help put on the sash on Evangelina Jackson during the pinning and lamp lighting ceremony for licensed vocational nursing Friday at Imperial Valley College in Imperial. Jackson's son, Francesco Cortez, is also graduating from the registered nursing program the same day at IVC. JOSELITO VILLERO PHOTO

By KARINA LOPEZ Staff Writer

IMPERIAL — About two years ago, Evangelina Jackson began the vocational nursing program at Imperial Valley College, while her son, Frankie Cortez, began the registered nursing program, also at the local college.

While their paths never crossed during class or rotations at the local hospitals, they both shared in the late-night study sessions and struggles of going through the rigorous programs.

Now, the two are also celebrating together as Friday (December 12) marked both their graduations from their respective programs.

Jackson graduated during a 3 p.m. ceremony were she was pinned by her sons and vice versa during Cortez's ceremony later Friday night.

Cortez said it was hard to put into words what it meant to graduate from the program and see his mother fulfill her dreams at the same time.

"She always wanted to be a nurse because her mother was a nurse in Mexico," Cortez said. "It was a later revelation for me."

Cortez described the past two years as a rigorous wrestling match that could have gone either way.

"I think that's the best way I can describe it," he said with a laugh.

Susan Carreon, associate dean of nursing and allied health at Imperial Valley College, saw the two go through the programs and said it is really special to see Jackson and Cortez achieve their degrees together because each of them has succeeded in a very difficult and challenging program of study.

"I know they are very close and so proud of what each other has accomplished," she explained.

In addition to succeeding in challenging areas of study, Carreon said they both had the qualities needed in great nurses.

"Both of them exemplify a 'caring' concern for their patients to an outstanding degree," she explained. "It is what we expect from all our nursing graduates, but Evangelina and Francesco are special -- it must have started with their family values. They both have a giving spirit that has been recognized by our faculty and staff here at IVC."

Jackson was selected as the outstanding VN student at IVC's Student Award Banquet last spring and Cortez served as a tutor for the pre-nursing students and is the first to volunteer to help with department events Carreon said.

"They are both high energy and technically skilled as well and will make outstanding nurses," she said.

Both Jackson and Cortez overcame significant obstacles to get to their ceremonies on Friday, Carreon explained, saying Cortez was the first to tell others that he epitomized the "bad boy" with his actions and attitudes in his earlier years.

"I did get into trouble," Cortez said with a laugh.

Yet now that both Cortez and Jackson have achieved their goals , the only thing left for them to do is begin helping patients.

"We definitely want to stay in the Imperial Valley and help our families and our community," Cortez said.

Staff Writer Karina Lopez can be reached at 760-337-3439 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.