PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- Chava Pollak, a Pace University graduate and the class speaker of the 2014 commencement, grew up in a sheltered, insular community in a very large family and had very limited education or opportunity growing up.
Despite the fact that formal schooling was not the chief concern for her family, Pollak decided to pursue higher education. Like a woman from another era, she thought her only options were teaching or nursing. She chose the latter, starting at Rockland Community College. From there, she won a full scholarship to Pace, which changed her life.
"I became a different person," said Pollak. "The nursing program has been amazing."
In the community where she grew up, women and girls are expected to marry young, have large families, be obedient and, most of all, conform. They are not encouraged to have their own careers or independent identities.
Pollak was paired up with Sharon Wexler, PhD, RN, and says, "She is so invested in me; she cares so much about my success."
Wexler encouraged Pollak to attend conferences. The two worked together on nursing research in aging sensitivity and presented together at the National Gerontological Nursing Association conference in Florida.
Pollak believes that under Wexler's guidance, she has become confident and prepared for the challenges of the nursing field. She also believes that the mentorship she has received from Wexler and other Pace faculty members, have been a crucial component to her success. "The faculty at Pace are so committed to sharing what they know," she said.
"At Pace, I learned about cultural diversity and I became involved in community service and global health. I learned to serve and be a part of communities outside of my own cultural background."
Pollak received a Future Nurse Leader award from the American Nurse Association at Pace University's commencement.