Both worked one-on-one with Institute staff for personalized academic support, at no cost to them, thanks to generous donor support.
Berra and Banchi arranged their daily schedules carefully. If one was at school or work, the other would take care of the kids and study. Sleep was a luxury.
Banchi graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2021, while continuing to grow their family. She also taught the Institute’s online Nursing Assistant Training for aspiring CNAs during the pandemic shutdown.
Berra continued working to support the family while enrolled part-time in an Associate Degree program to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN). He then completed his own Bachelor of Science in Nursing, an honor he graduated with earlier this year.
Their perseverance paid off.
Today, Berra and Banchi are both working as registered nurses in hospitals. They recently bought their first home after years of living in an apartment, including public housing.
“It didn’t come easy, what you see right now,” Berra said, gesturing to their new home.
“Now we are able to provide for our kids, even though we had to work hard without a break,” Banchi said.
“At least we are able to put food on the table for them. To live in a house we purchased almost two years ago. That’s the best part of our family – living the life we’ve been dreaming we’d have.”
What’s more, they love giving back to the community through medicine.
“I’m not working only for money. I’m giving care,” Berra said. “I’m caring for someone who is suffering some kind of pain. Caring for them gives me more than money. It gives me happiness. I am in the right place.”
Prioritizing Home and Family
Throughout the many challenges of arriving as refugees, learning English, raising children, and little sleep while working and studying, Institute support and Berra and Banchi’s belief in each other kept them going.
“It takes teamwork. It takes understanding each other and encouragement. And having support,” Banchi said.
Even after years of sacrifice, Berra and Banchi continue envisioning their future. She aspires to become a nurse practitioner. They dream of owning their own business.
For now though, they’re ready to take a break from school to spend more time as a family.
“In this country if you do the right thing, you can be successful,” Berra said. “From the time we got denied jobs because we did not speak very good English, to now. If we can do it, anyone can do it.”
Reported and written by Alisa Blackwood, Communications Manager at the International Institute of Minnesota. Alisa’s work at the Institute comes after years of writing for publications and organizations such as The Associated Press, O, The Oprah Magazine, TravelandLeisure.com, Health and more. She hopes her writing about Institute clients, students and staff bring to life the stories behind the news headlines.