Nominee to win $200 and recognition at awards ceremony
Despite multiple setbacks Highline College student Evgeniya Tulyaeva has faced as an Uzbekistan immigrant and a person who’s suffered great loss in her young life, the 26-year-old nursing student continues to persevere.
“If it wasn’t for Highline College’s accessibility to financial aid, career counselors, and mental health advisers, I wouldn’t be able to proudly say that I will be a future RN graduate,” Tulyaeva said, adding that she expects to graduate in spring 2023.
Highline College’s Board of Trustees nominated Tulyaeva for the 2023 Association of College Trustees (ACT) Transforming Lives Award based on her essay in which she described her life experiences. In being selected as a nominee for the award, Tulyaeva will win a $200 cash award and recognition at an awards dinner on Jan. 23, 2023, in Olympia. Those who win the award will take home $500.
“I feel honored,” Tulyaeva said about winning the nomination. “Highline has been a fundamental stepping stone to why I was able to pursue my nursing career.”
But the path the Federal Way resident had to take to get to where she is today –– a huge reason she decided to pursue nursing –– has been anything but easy.
Growing up, Tulyaeva’s parents did everything they possibly could to support their “three Russian-speaking daughters.” In search of a better life, Tulyaeva and her family left their home country of Uzbekistan and came to America in 2002 when she was 6 years old.
“My father was barely home, working as a truck driver, driving long hauls out of state to support us,” she said. “While my mother, who was fighting a blood-transmitted illness, cleaned huge corporate buildings at night to support her children and try to give them a good life.”
Tulyaeva said she always knew she would go to college as her parents “did not work this hard” for their children not to.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Tulyaeva arrived home from her high school graduation trip in 2014 to learn that her father was in a horrible accident that caused injury to his spinal cord.
After being placed into an induced coma, her father woke up ventilator-dependent and paralyzed from the neck down. Tulyaeva helped take care of him while he was in the hospital and then transitioned into being his caregiver when he went home.
“My world turned upside down, college flew out the window and my family needed me and my sisters,” she said. “My older sister moved back home to start paying the mortgage, my twin sister got a corporate job at an auto body shop, while my mother and I lived at Harborview Medical Center, watching over my paralyzed father fighting for his life.”
Once home, Tulyaeva poured her energy into helping her father despite his insistence she goes back to school.
“It was really important to my father that all his daughters pursued an education,” she said. “And while I was taking care of him at home, he encouraged me to start on my prerequisites at Highline.”
But in her caregiving work, she began to discover the route she wanted to take in college.
“I acquired a lot of skills taking care of my father,” she said. “I was trained in using a ventilator, administering meds and using Hoyer lifts. I felt like I was ready to pursue a path into nursing after gaining all this experience in the field.”
Tulyaeva began at Highline College in the spring of 2015, slowly working toward her degree, and supporting herself financially along the way. Because of the college’s proximity to her home, she was able to juggle her caregiving duties with her courses and assignments, often running home between classes to help her father.
Unfortunately, Tulyaeva’s father passed in January 2016 and made arrangements to donate his entire body to science. As difficult as that was, Tulyaeva continued studying and working toward her degree, applying for financial aid and scholarships, and getting support from mental health advisers and career counselors at Highline College.
“Highline had advisers helping me every step of the way from choosing my nursing career to helping me schedule my classes, which I am proudly able to say I am finishing up this year,” she said. “For anyone hesitant to get started, just know that Highline gives you every opportunity possible to further your education.”
While Tulyaeva works on her nursing degree, her twin sister is earning her administration and communications degree while her older sister works to become a nurse practitioner. Upon graduation, the three plan to start up a family clinic in health care together.
“My father may not be here with us,” Tulyaeva said.” But I know he is proud that all his daughters are either finished or finishing up with school.”