Anacelis Flecha graduated from the Baystate Midwifery Education Program this summer. It was not easy.
Mother was a model of strength and persistence
At six, Anacelis and her older sister moved to Springfield from Puerto Rico with their mother who was seeking better medical care for her health issues.
“Being an Hispanic, Puerto Rican girl growing up in Springfield, MA posed a lot of challenges for me and my family—our color of skin, English being our second language, and limited resources.”
Her mother had a bachelor’s degree in education but spoke little English. So, she took an ESL class at Springfield Technical Community College and was able to find a job as an elementary school teacher in Holyoke. When she was required to get a master’s degree to continue teaching, she worked during the day and attended UMass Amherst in the evening.
But in 2002, she suffered a massive heart attack and required cardiac catheterizations, a cardiac ablation, a valve replacement, and a pacemaker. She recovered, but was unable to return to work.
That’s when Anacelis decided to become a nurse and help people. Her mom supported her aspirations, transferring Anacelis to Putnam Vocational Technical High School so she could earn her certified nurse assistant credential in their allied health program.
Baystate helped her set—and achieve—her goals
In 11th grade, Anacelis became part of the first full cohort of Baystate Springfield Education Partnership (BSEP) students.
When she graduated, she was accepted into the Elms College nursing program. But even after financial aid, scholarships, and grants, was unable to pay her tuition.
BSEP awarded her a $10,000 scholarship and got her an internship in interpreter services at Baystate Medical Center. She credits these opportunities for allowing her to complete her bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Anacelis’ dream of becoming a midwife was born during her sister’s pregnancy. She attended her sister’s prenatal visits and was present for her labor and delivery.
“I saw first-hand the connection that the midwives developed with my sister and the exceptional care that my sister received.”
She turned to Peter Blain MEd, Manager, Baystate Springfield Education Partnership, for advice—he told her about Baystate's Midwifery Education Program (MEP).
She applied and was accepted to the program in 2012.
But then, life happened
Not having the funds to pay for tuition, Anacelis joined the military, hoping it would help her complete her education.
She says that every year after that there was a new excuse for not returning to school.
In 2014, she adopted a little boy from the Department of Children and Families.
In 2016, she got married. Her husband had a daughter the same age as her son, and soon they were expecting a baby.
Her husband encouraged her to reapply to MEP to fulfill her career dream to be a midwife. In 2018, her baby was born, and four months later she received her acceptance letter.
Stretched too thin—mother, wife, nurse, student
“Several times I went to my instructors and pretty much let them know that I couldn't complete the program. The amount of help and support they provided me with is indescribable.”
Anacelis was working as a nurse and caring for three children in her blended family, including providing the extra attention needed by her son who was diagnosed with ADHD while she was in the program.
"(Anacelis) is an amazingly strong woman, a tremendous striver toward her goals. I don’t know how she managed to do it all and she was sometimes stretched too thin. But when she was with the midwives, she was 100% on task," says Susan Krause MSN, CNM, Director, Midwifery Education Program
But now she is a nurse midwife employed at Cooley Dickinson Medical Group Women’s Health—and living her dream.