Vanguard University nursing program graduate Miguel Rosado remembers hiding on rooftops and in bushes from both the army and guerrilla fighters while growing up in El Salvador.
If either faction discovered him at age 12 or older, he would have been conscripted into one of Central America's bloodiest civil wars. Like many Salvadorans caught between the factions, Rosado's mother immigrated to the United States — he was 8 when she left — to work and send money home.
"I think that if I hadn't gone through that experience with the civil war, I wouldn't be as strong," said Rosado, 40.
Vanguard, a Christian college in Costa Mesa, honored Rosado and 33 other nursing graduates Thursday during a nursing pinning ceremony, a tradition that dates to Florence Nightingale. The pins display the Nightingale lamp and a Christian cross — chosen by the program's inaugural class.
"We honor and celebrate the nurses being pinned today for the differences they make daily in caring for patients and their families through the provision of compassionate, quality and evidence-based care," Vanguard President Michael Beals said during the ceremony.
Rosado and two other nursing program graduates, Kanoe Martin and Melissa Smith, were selected by their classmates to speak to administrators, faculty members, family and friends gathered at Newport Mesa Church. The nursing graduates also will participate in Vanguard's commencement Friday.
Before his mother left El Salvador, Rosado would place washcloths on her forehead when she was sick while wearing his white lab coat and toy stethoscope.
With the help of his aunt, Rosado hid for more than five years before leaving El Salvador to be with his mother, who became a U.S. citizen. He has worked for 10 years as a licensed nurse at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange.
"I sincerely believe God has a calling for everyone, and I'm so happy to be part of this calling," Rosado said.
Earning his bachelor's degree in nursing while working full time came with challenges, including having his gallbladder removed shortly before his final presentation.
"God gave me a lot of angels that supported me in many ways," he said.
Rosado plans to pursue a doctorate as a nurse practitioner in spring 2019, but that dream could be cut short because of his immigration status. Like many Salvadorans in the United States, Rosado has temporary protected status through Sept. 9, 2019. He could be deported to El Salvador unless the Trump administration takes action.
Rosado hopes the program will be extended so he isn't sent back to a country he hasn't seen in more than 20 years.
"It's scary, but there's always hope," he said. "It's going to work out somehow."
DANIEL LANGHORNE is a contributor to Times Community News.