Olivia Frazier and Cheryl Smith: An inspiring story leaves an impression

Friday, November 29, 2019

The UMass Annual Chancellor’s Donor Appreciation Breakfast was held Oct. 26. We have been treated to a few of these events over the past several years through the UMass Alumni Association.

Each year, donors have an opportunity to hear two UMass speakers who give impressive presentations of their ongoing research. Speakers are usually professors and graduate students, but this year was different.

This year was special because Daniella Puche, a UMass sophomore nursing student, shared her story that was about a very real struggle. It was about her journey from Georgia to the UMass Amherst Nursing School. It came from her heart, and it was personal.

She described her early years as a “fairytale” childhood. But, at the young age of 13, her life was turned upside down due to the serious illnesses of her mother and father. Daniella was thrust into the unexpected role of home caregiver to both of her parents. Her childhood included many trips to hospitals and learning about prognoses and medications.

The message we heard from Daniella was not about specific research or a community program. It was about struggle and getting through it. Our students face these struggles all of the time, especially in the realm of public higher education. However, what makes these students so incredible is their resilience and ability to draw strength from their experience. The 350 donors and guests in the campus center gave Daniella a standing ovation at the end of her speech.

Why? Because her story has impact, her words were inspiring, and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that she is on her way to becoming a great nurse. This is what UMass is all about, highlighting and supporting students who overcome the challenges we all face at one time or another. Go UMass and thank you Daniella!

Olivia Frazier

UMass Amherst ’98

Cheryl Smith, RN BSN

UMass Amherst ’94