Crystal Mendoza, 32, Lehigh

I worked for the United Way but had to stop working because of a long illness. I’ve been on dialysis for four years. I was lucky to receive a local kidney donation and had a transplant on Dec. 3. I’ve always wanted to do nursing but being sick I haven’t been able to. I feel like it’s my calling. My daughter is my inspiration for improving myself and I want to show her you have to follow your dreams and keep pushing through. There have been a lot of barriers standing in the way. I’m a single mother and had to work to pay the bills so I couldn’t go to school. I’ve been dealing with illness since I was 21 and trying to get through day by day. I see myself being a registered nurse and helping other people. I’d like to help at the transplant unit. My mother wanted me to go to college but I was young and dumb and didn’t accept an academic scholarship at Edison (now Florida SouthWest State College) after graduating from Cypress Lakes. Now that I’m older I realized I should have done it. I would have been the first generation in my family to graduate.”