Life can change in an instant.

But that wasn’t on Jennifer Navarro’s mind as she pored over her application for the Gates Millennium Scholarship — which covers any costs she couldn’t meet to pursue her undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. She spent weeks filling the pages of the application’s required 10 essays about her experiences volunteering in hospitals, in homeless shelters and soup kitchens, about her belief that we’re all called in some way to serve the common good, and about her aspirations of working in health care. 

Then a student at Denver’s Arrupe Jesuit High School, she knew the odds were 50-to-1 to earn the award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In her mind, she was a long shot. 

“I never thought I would get it,” she said.

But a letter inside a thick mailing that arrived that fateful day — May 1, 2014 — proved her wrong. 

The news elicited tears from her mom, while her dad launched into pep talk mode as dads tend to do. All her life they had emphasized the importance of education and set the example of working hard — mom as a screen printer, while dad worked in construction. Navarro was the first in her family to graduate from high school. And now, she would be the first to attend college. 

She followed her heart to Regis, and after just one semester, into its distinguished nursing program. 

There, she fell in love. In the classroom. In Regis’ simulation lab. In Denver Health’s pediatric intensive care unit. In watching nursing faculty exemplify what cura personalis really means and what makes a Regis nurse not just different, but special. Each experience underscored that she was meant to do this. 

“I’ve learned a lot about being a woman for others,” said Navarro, a 2018 graduate who wants to stay in Denver and work with underserved communities. Next, she plans to pursue her master’s via Regis’ Family Nurse Practitioner program. 

With a nursing career awaiting, Navarro is excited, but also mindful of the other wisdom her parents and her Jesuit education passed on: that she can use her education to change others’ lives. She looks to her sister, set to start high school in the fall, and thinks on how she is experiencing all of this and what her future holds. And when Navarro was pinned celebrating her completion of Regis’ nursing program, it was her sister doing the honors. 

“My parents have always been there for me. Their support has been so much. But I have an opportunity to keep that going,” she said. “I hope I can pay back what has been given to me.”