MU | Features
Paula Avila knows firsthand the path through life , though not often straightforward , leads you to where you need to be .
When Avila first joined the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department in 2015 , new doors opened in her career . As a laboratory technician specialist at Manchester Pharmacy , she found a rare opportunity to assist and contribute to faculty research .
“ It ’ s exciting that for the first time in my career , I ’ m doing research ,” said Avila . “ Before coming to Manchester , my work was mainly in setting up undergraduate laboratories , but nothing that allowed me to collaborate with faculty like I do now .”
Working under the mentorship of Dennis Brown , Ph . D ., an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences , Avila has enjoyed contributing to several of his publications . She also helps train fourth-year pharmacy students in cell culture techniques , biological assays , and instrumentation during their laboratory rotations .
“ In the lab , students experience what that side of pharmacy would look like if they should choose a career in research ,” Avila said .
Before joining Manchester , Avila worked for more than 15 years in the chemistry department at Fort Wayne ’ s University of Saint Francis , where she also earned dual bachelor ’ s degrees in science .
Aside from her work in the lab , Avila has served many years as a community leader with the Hispanic Leadership Coalition of Northeast Indiana ( HLCNI ), where she helped Latino students figure out how to apply and pay for college . This year Avila completed a term serving as president of the coalition , whose mission is education and leadership development for area Latinx students .
She was drawn to the organization because she knows what it ’ s like to find yourself in a new country . At age 4 , she and her younger sisters had to be left in the care of family while her parents immigrated from Aguascalientes , Mexico to northern Indiana . It was 2,000 miles and nearly as many days until her mother was able to bring Avila and her sisters to their new home near Fort Wayne .
The Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 opened a window for her parents to get residency and then identify U . S . citizenship , creating a pathway for Avila and her siblings to also gain citizenship .
Left : Paula Avila demonstrates lab skills for 2021 M . S . in PGx graduate , Emily Miller .
Determined that her children would be educated , Avila ’ s mother worked multiple jobs to help support their college expenses . The first to navigate college applications , Avila had to figure out student loans and and how to apply for college grants . All five Avila chilren earned college degrees .
“ I worried about my accent and speaking English , so science was an easy path for me to take ,” said Avila – noting that she almost failed chemistry once . “ Then , I decided to major in it because I didn ’ t want to fail at something ,” she added .
Her determination to succeed became apparent when she completed a double major in chemistry and biology at Saint Francis .
Among the HLCNI initiatives , Avila is proud of the “ Beca HLCNI ” program , which annually awards several $ 1,500 scholarships to firstor second-generation Latinx high school seniors or returning college students from Northeast Indiana .
“ There are many deserving students from our region pursuing higher
To the youth she mentors , Avila says , “ No es tu sueño sino tu destino – It ’ s not your dream , but your destiny .”
education degrees at accredited colleges and universities in Indiana , including DACA or undocumented students ,” Avila said .
She came to realize that a fine line separates her own experience from the immigrant youths she mentors . Under Avila ’ s leadership , HLCNI developed a presentation to help them through the steps of applying for citizenship , even as they live in fear of a parent ’ s deportation .
“ I could connect with those students because I lived in a time where opportunities existed ,” said Avila . “ The children under DACA today were not as lucky .”
She also came to understand that it was her parents ’ journey to become Americans , and that their dream became her destiny . So , to the youth she mentors , Avila says , “ No es tu sueño sino tu destino – It ’ s not your dream , but your destiny .”
She also affirms , “ Yes , I am supposed to be here to help others .”
Manchester University | ManchesterRx 13