Pathways to Dreams and Reinvention


When Mirna moved to Houston she had to start from zero and reinvent herself like many other immigrants.

At BakerRipley, we meet neighbors like Mirna Chavez all the time. Hardworking professionals come to Houston and have to start from zero while adapting to a whole new world.

Back in Tampico, Mexico, Mirna ran her own office and practiced occupational healthcare, consulting with several different corporations. Her husband ran a successful business as well; life was good.

Unfortunately, during this time, drug cartel violence was on the rise in the area. It created an economic crisis, businesses were forced to close, people fled, and everyone lived in fear.

“I really liked my work, but I had no choice but to close down as the situation became really dangerous,” explains Mirna. Her husband closed shop as well, and they decided to move to Houston, where their sons lived and could petition for them to become U.S. citizens.

Reinventing Yourself

When Mirna arrived in Houston in 2009, she knew she had to start all over again. Her medical degree didn’t transfer over, and getting one here was nearly impossible.

“Once here, you have to reinvent yourself. Going back to get a degree was expensive, and with the residency, it was nearly impossible to find the resources and time to do it,” adds Mirna.

Mirna thought about getting a medical billing and medical assistant certificate, but when she asked for quotes, it was at least $10,000 to $12,000 to start, and she couldn’t afford it.

Last year, while taking English classes, she learned about the medical billing program from Houston Community College and BakerRipley. She applied, passed the entry English test, and was accepted. The class had seventeen students, and fifteen of them received financial assistance from BakerRipley, including Mirna.

“I started going earlier in 2020, and it was all a dream, I couldn’t believe it,” said Mirna. “I enjoyed learning again about medical terminology and Electronic Health Records,”

When Covid-19 hit, and all classes went virtual, the BakerRipley Adult Education team quickly provided resources to help during this transition – training students on new apps and tools like Zoom and Google classroom.

Furthermore, BakerRipley paid for the state certification test in medical billing, and she recently received her certificate. This allows her to get a job anywhere in Texas. Mirna is currently looking for jobs as a medical assistant to apply her knowledge of the medical field.

ESL For jobs

During this time, Mirna also participated in the ESL for Jobs program, strictly focused on helping students find a good-paying job.

“It’s designed for immigrant adults and classes to focus on how to write your resume, prepare for an interview, and on assessing your skills,” said Mirna.

The courses are also broken down by specific industry, preparing students with the most up to date information. For Mirna, this is a great resource for a city like Houston.

“Houston is multicultural, and we have a lot of immigrants. When we arrive, we have to reinvent ourselves, and we might not have enough money to keep preparing and adapting to thrive in this society,” explains Mirna.

She’s always helping her peers and colleagues because she believes in everyone working together to move ahead.

Good people in this world

For Mirna, when you give people resources, it elevates Houston as a city because people can live better lives. She hopes to one day collaborate with BakerRipley to continue helping others accomplish their dreams.

“I’ve learned so much this year, but what I most learned is that there are good people in this world. I call them angels; they are truly angels.”