As an alumna of a high school operated by Instituto del Progresso, former participant of various educational programs and previous volunteer, Diana Alpizar exemplifies the family style approach that is recognized as one of Instituto’s strongest qualities.

Through its adult education courses, public charter high schools, nursing college and career pathways programs focused on healthcare, manufacturing and retail, the Little Village-based organization is known as a key leader in advancing and improving the lives of the Latino and immigrant communities.

In her current role as the director of college and academic affairs at Instituto, Diana works on the recruitment and admissions operations for the Basic Nurse Assistant Program (BNAP) and the Associate Degree in Nursing Program (ADN) offered through Instituto College. Through the Career Pathways in Healthcare program, the organization also offers opportunities for individuals to help them prepare for careers as certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses and registered nurses. Diana is often the first person who potential students meet and connect with throughout their enrollment and upon completion when she helps them with their job search. To better understand the experience of the students and how to best serve them, she even enrolled in the Basic Nurse Assistant Program herself.

“Some of the people we serve come to us without any knowledge of the education system in this country. They’re exploring it for the first time and don’t have the right person to guide them through all their options,” Diana said. “For many students, it’s also their first time seeking support from their community and they don’t know about all the things Instituto can help them with, like our full tuition scholarships for the Associate Degree in Nursing Program, financial coaching, transportation assistance and help with buying clothing for job interviews. We also connect them with other community organizations that can help with rent assistance, mental health services and health insurance. If someone really wants to pursue a nursing career but they don’t know where to start, Instituto is the right place for them.”

Instituto del Progreso Latino seeks to contribute to the full development of low-income immigrants and their families through education, training and employment so they can become better prepared to fully exercise their rights in this country and feel confident in pursuing opportunities to improve their lives.

Diana Alpizar

The eagerness and drive of the program participants and nursing students to learn and pursue new career opportunities is also a significant motivational factor for Diana. “Despite the hardships they might be going through and the barriers they might face, especially throughout the pandemic, they have still been eager to continue moving forward,” Diana explained. “The lack of face-to-face interaction was difficult at first because many students didn’t have the right equipment to participate in the classes virtually. Luckily, we were able to help connect them with the right technology so they could continue working. Just having a computer with internet access can change someone’s life. I’ve been doing this work at Instituto for over 20 years because it’s so motivating to see how my work can impact the lives of others. It’s amazing to meet people when they first join the programs and watch them transform to become successful, confident individuals.”