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Grad Olga Ortiz Salgado

Her Grandmother Never Got to be A Nurse - Now She's Going to be a Doctor

Leaving home is a scary prospect for a lot of graduates. For Nadia Maldonado, 17, home is coming with her to Nashville and Vanderbilt University. 

“My parents love Nashville - they’ve always wanted to go,” Maldonado said. “They joked about moving (but) they fully want to move with me.”

For the South Milwaukee soon-to-be-graduate, heading to a top school was always a goal. It helps that Nashville is in a slightly warmer climate than South Milwaukee. She plans to major in Neuroscience and minor in nanoscience and nanotechnology. Vanderbilt checked off those boxes for her.

“It’s not in the cold. They have a nanotech science major and a nanotechnology minor. That’s my first choice. I want to go there.”

Maldonado will be the first person in her family to earn a four-year degree, and as far as anyone can remember, the first South Milwaukee grad to attend the university. She applied for an early decision from the school and earned nearly a full scholarship - she’ll only have to pay $5,000 a year to attend.

She said she’s always been driven to learn as much as she can and stay a step ahead. At the end of 8th grade, she mapped out her high school career so she could take all the courses that interested her. 

“Freshman year I loved going into the high school and knowing there were so many classes I could take,” she said. “(That year) I doubled up on science so I could take Anatomy and Physiology in sophomore year.”

At Vanderbilt, the range of possibilities seems vast. In just a shortlist she mentioned, in addition to nanotechnology, she rattled off emergency medicine, neuroscience, neurosurgery, and forensics as all possibilities for her future. As of right now, she’s sure she’ll be a doctor, probably a neurosurgeon. 

 She’s always pushed herself, she said, because the second-generation Mexican-American grandparents risked so much fleeing Mexico to come to the United States. She feels a deep need to honor that risk and the hard work her grandparents did once they got here to support the family.

“My grandma, she wanted to go to college to be a nurse - she didn’t get to,” Maldonado said. They had nothing and they worked so hard to set up a future for their future children. I’ve said: ‘I will continue what you guys couldn’t finish.’”