By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart

Firsts tend to be remembered. Whether it’s the name of the first person to walk on the moon, the first president of the United States, or your first friend. At SUNY Broome, the name Triniti Vazquez, will always be remembered for being a notable first. Vazquez holds the unique distinction of being the first P-TECH student to graduate from SUNY Broome’s highly competitive Nursing: A.A.S. program. At just 19 years old, Triniti has accepted a position as a registered nurse in the maternity ward at UHS Wilson Medical Center, the ultimate result of a program established specifically to funnel local talent into high-demand careers within the community. 

Triniti Vazquez was born in Nampa, Idaho. She lived in the Pacific Northwest until age 8, when her parents relocated to the Southern Tier to be closer to her paternal extended family. Shortly after moving to the region, Triniti was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (T1D). Her diagnosis and subsequent daily management of the disease gave her early exposure to the world of healthcare. She was intrigued but was also just a kid, so she filed thoughts of becoming a healthcare provider away for the future.  Life as a middle schooler in Endwell for Vazquez was filled with homework and a constant rotation of competitive jazz, lyrical, contemporary, and musical theater classes. The relatively carefree eighth-grader had no idea that she was about to make the most significant decision of her life. 

One morning, Triniti’s art class was interrupted to watch a brief promotional video about the then-newly developed Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program. Now in its tenth year,  the P-TECH program is a specialized six-year educational path that offers students from the region the opportunity to earn their high school diploma and a free associate degree from SUNY Broome in the fields of computer technology, engineering technology, health science, and nursing. P-TECH is a collaborative effort between area school districts, Broome-Tioga BOCES, SUNY Broome, and a collection of industry partners.   

While many of her fellow classmates tuned out the presentation, Triniti couldn’t help but be drawn in. 

“I just had this overwhelming feeling that I was meant to be in this program,” Vazquez shared. “Up until then, I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to go to college. I felt that P-TECH could open those doors for me. It saw the program for what it really was – a blessing.” 

When Trininti came home that day with a P-TECH informational packet in hand, her family rallied around her in support, helping her to complete her application and draft her letter of interest. Next, she needed to select her intended program of study. Triniti didn’t hesitate. All those years spent in doctors’ offices and hospitals addressing her personal health, proved to be the most hands-on form of career exploration imaginable. 

Thus began Triniti’s P-TECH journey. In ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade, Triniti and a handful of classmates from ME divided their school day between BOCES and Maine Endwell High School, balancing a curriculum combination of SUNY Broome Fast Forward classes, high school general education requirements, and career-centered training. When not in the classroom, P-TECH students were out in the community, touring the facilities of the program’s many industry partners. During her senior year, Triniti traded in her mornings at ME for mornings at SUNY Broome, fully immersing herself into life as a college student. While she was initially overwhelmed with imposter syndrome, her confidence grew with each semester. 

In addition to covering the cost of tuition, the P-TECH program provided funding for Vazquez’s textbooks, scrubs, and exam fees. Photo Credit: Matt Ebbers

“I can still remember sitting in my first psychology class, worrying that people would notice that I was only sixteen,” Vasquez reflected.  “But eventually, I became more and more comfortable on campus, thanks largely to Ami Wiswell, our P-TECH counselor.” 

While the P-TECH program is primarily a well-oiled machine with respect to scheduling logistics, there are the occasional semester lulls. During one such gap over winter break, Ami Wiswell coordinated a presentation for the health studies track students to learn about SUNY Broome’s nursing program and the competitive admissions process. Remembering P-TECH’s innate ability to open doors, Vazquez, along with three other students, decided to apply. With the support of Wiswell, the students spent the winter break preparing for the ATI TEAS entrance exam. P-TECH funded their tutor, study materials, and the cost of the exams. Triniti was the first and only student to be accepted, marking the Southern-Tier P-TECH Program as the first in New York to have developed a nursing enrichment pathway. 

Once again, Triniti acknowledged that she was the youngest student in the room as she scanned her first “Meeting Human Needs” class. But this time, she had something in her back pocket to calm her nerves — years of SUNY Broome experiences. 

“I walked up to a group of girls who were trying to figure out how to get to our next lecture in Titchener Hall,” Vazquez said. “I ended up leading the whole group to the building. That little moment helped me to feel like I belonged in the cohort.” 

In addition to supporting Triniti academically throughout her two years as a nursing student, the P-TECH program also arranged for her to gain professional experience through a nursing assistant position at their partner institution, UHS Wilson Medical Center.  

“When I met with the team at UHS, I asked to work in peds because I had spent most of my life as a pediatric patient,” Vazquez explained. “Because Wilson doesn’t have an official peds department, they offered me maternity as an alternative. I immediately fell in love with postpartum care. I’ve been a nursing assistant on the floor for the past two years, and in June 2024, I will join the team as a registered nurse.”

The collaborative nature of the P-TECH program means that Triniti’s many successes aren’t just celebrated at SUNY Broome. To the contrary, teams of educators and administrators at Broome-Tioga BOCES, Maine-Endwell School District, and United Health Services are all cheering her on as she enters the profession of nursing in her local community. 

“Triniti is a quiet storm.  She is one of the most driven students that I have ever worked with,” beamed Matt Sheehan, Director of The Center for Career and Technical Excellence at Broome-Tioga BOCES. “She has methodically and relentlessly worked through the P-TECH program both here as a high school student and at SUNY Broome for college.  She had plenty of hurdles, challenges, and reasons to quit the program, but she never did.  Triniti doesn’t assign blame; she just solves the problem and moves on.  I am proud to know her.”

Are you interested in learning more about the unique opportunities created through the Pathways in Technology Early College High School program? If so, please don’t hesitate to contact  Ami Wiswell at AWiswell@btboces.org

As a P-TECH student, Triniti started taking classes on campus at 16. Photo Credit: Matt Ebbers

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