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Staying Strong

Edward and Annette AguiguiAfter retiring from a 20-year service in the U.S. Army, Edward Aguigui and his wife Annette decided to start a new adventure—in Alaska. During a stop in Washington to visit family, however, the Aguiguis discovered two foster boys who needed a home. Their new adventure, rather than beginning in Alaska, began in Washington.

While Edward worked as a construction manager, Annette stayed home. In 2009, the construction industry halted and Edward was without work. "Never before in the history of our family, now seven children strong, had Ed been without a job," said Annette.

Edward discovered that he would qualify for educational funding through a new Veterans Administration program designed for those who served in the military after 9/11. "This was like a dream come true for me, because I had always wanted to become a nurse but put that dream on the back burner to be able to care for my family," Annette said. "As we put the pieces together of how to make this school thing work, we could see the benefit it would be in the long run for not only us but for our whole family."

The Aguiguis worked hard at their prerequisite courses, earning places on the WVC President's List and Dean's List, and in the Phi Theta Kappa honors society. They applied for the WVC nursing program in 2011. Sadly, they received their acceptance letter while preparing for the funeral of their 24-year-old daughter-in-law and unborn grandson. "We pushed through our grief and accepted our seats in the nursing program," Annette said.

Just before their first comprehensive final in the nursing program, the Aguiguis received more shattering news: their son had been arrested on murder charges in Georgia. "There are no parenting books that can ever prepare you for the shock of that call," said Annette.

Once again, they considered stopping their education, and once again, they persevered. "The next morning, we headed to Wenatchee Valley College to take exams that could very well have been the end of the road had we failed them," she said. "Needless to say, we did not fail nor have we failed since that awful day."

Edward and Annette both served as representatives on the Student Nurses of Wenatchee (SNOW) club board and assisted with Opportunity Grant workshops. In June, they graduated with honors and were the recipients of the WVC President's Medal for academic achievement, leadership and service. Following graduation, they began registered nursing internships at Confluence Health. Both hope to work with veterans at military hospitals in the future.

"As we pick up the pieces of life, we can see just how important our educational pursuits have been during this time," Annette said. "In the future, we will use our story to encourage those who face difficult times and tough decisions."

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