EDINBURG, TX - The Edinburg Housing Authority (EHA) recently awarded one time Section 8 resident, Ayana Gates, a congratulatory letter of recognition for graduating from the Physician Assistant (PA) program at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV).
EHA is a government assisted housing agency directly supervised and funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The agency is continuously looking for opportunities to assist the residents to cycle out of housing and become self-sufficient members of society.
Executive Director Rodolfo "Rudy" Ramirez at EHA hopes Ms. Gates story of sacrifice, hard work, and persistence inspires other residents of public housing or Section 8 to overcome barriers and pursue a life of self-sufficiency.
Ms. Gates is a single mother, with a 17-year-old son with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who first moved to the valley at age 39 back in July of 2014.
Understanding the opportunities she wanted to provide for her son, Ms. Gates knew something had to change.
Ayana's journey to success was not an easy one.
Her quest for a better life began at age 28 after realizing she had to get off the mouse wheel that was not bringing any fulfillment.
"Early in my life, I was compromising, but I was not fulfilled." Gates said.
After experiencing many different professions, studies, and cities, Ayana realized she had to pursue her heart's desire once and for all.
During her journey, Ms. Gates discovered her love for cardiology while working at the cardiac rehab as an exercise physiologist.
She now longed to be a sports medicine doctor or cardiologist.
"Just going through this journey helped me to figure out what I liked and what I did not like and I liked cardiology," she said.
Nonetheless, after several attempts to pass the MCAT, she shifted her focus to a different division of the medical field.
She researched her other options and soon learned about physician assistants.
Ayana applied to several different PA schools around Texas but got waitlisted her first year.
On her second attempt, she was invited by UTRGV for an interview.
After a successful meeting and first trip to the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), which she describes as an “environment of people and culture who are embracing, and friendly,” the thought of moving to the RGV started to grow in her mind.
However, her opportunity to be a part of the PA program got delayed after being waitlisted for the second time.
With a relentless, driven tenacity Ms. Gates applied for a third year and this time got accepted to the PA program at UTRGV.
Without family in the valley or any other financial support, Ayana sought assistance from EHA in 2016 and applied for the Section 8 Voucher program.
"Everybody in my path did not believe in me..." Ayana said.
Despite the lack of support, Ms. Gates grew as a person.
"In my journey, I evolved into the person I wanted to be," she said, "It built my character, confidence and helped me to believe in myself."
Overcoming trials, barriers and having to get back up after stumbles were part of her journey.
"We can get in our own way for not believing," she said, "Getting pass me being my own barrier was just part of my journey."
Now, Ayana, 43, is no longer under the Section 8 program and works as a PA for a local Cardiologist.
Her journey as she describes to be one of sacrifice was all worth it at the end.
Ms. Gates now hopes to inspire others in or out of public housing to not compromise, to overcome the hardships life throws at them, and to challenge them to do that very thing that has been burning in their heart for way too long.
"You have to believe in yourself; if you really want to get there, until you believe in yourself you are just entertaining your mind, it is just a hobby," she said. "I did not have family here so for someone who says they cannot do something because they do not have the support it definitely can be done, I had no support,"
EHA celebrates the efforts of their residents and will continue to support and highlight the success stories like Ms. Gates that comes to show it is never too late to do something great in life.