Overcoming the Odds: Viktoria Calanche "Pushes Through" to Graduation
Published April 27, 2022
By Darlene Muguiro
UTEP College of Health Sciences
CHS student Viktoria Calanche traversed a challenging path to finally reach her end goal of graduating with a master’s degree this spring. Calanche, a second-year graduate student in the Speech-Language Pathology Program, faced more than just the typical college freshman dilemma of settling on a major.
“I remember when I was a little girl, I said I would be a pediatrician because I wanted to work with kids and babies,” Calanche said. “As I ended high school, I thought maybe I could be a nurse because nurses have more direct contact with patients than physicians. So then, I got into nursing, but I soon realized that was not for me. I’m not good with bodily fluids.”
After leaving the nursing program, Calanche took a test that matches personality traits with ideal occupations, and speech-language pathology came up as an option. While researching the field, she quickly realized it was a match; the opportunity to “talk to kids all day long” was definitely something she wanted to do.
“I would rather sit with the kids at any party and talk with them instead of being with the adults,” she said.
Calanche entered the Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Sciences Program, with a concentration in Speech-Language Pathology. She took full advantage of the opportunities offered, including becoming involved in research with Dr. Anita Parada, assistant professor of Rehabilitation Sciences. She also joined the National Student Speech-Language Hearing Association, and maintained her membership throughout her undergraduate and graduate studies.
In the summer of 2020, Calanche faced one of the most difficult challenges of her life. Her newborn son was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia, a condition causing visual impairment. Doctors soon discovered a brain tumor requiring surgical removal, right when Calanche was in the middle of finals.
“All of my professors were awesome and told me, ‘Viktoria, you’ve got this,’” she said. “They gave me incompletes and allowed me to make up the work.”
Following the surgery, Calanche contemplated not taking the offer of admission to the UTEP Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) Program in order to take care of her son. But after a lengthy conversation with Dr. Benigno “Benny” Valles, SLP clinical associate professor, she decided to continue her education. In-person instruction was not being offered at that time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so Calanche took advantage of online classes, allowing her to continue her education and be home with her son.
While continuing to balance her full schedule of classes and practicums, and maintaining an impressive 4.0 GPA, Calanche began volunteering with the National Stuttering Association, assuming the position of co-chapter leader of the support group in El Paso. Her second son was born in fall 2021. As a single mother to two young children, Calanche credits her success and ability to continue her studies to her family’s support, particularly her mother, and to her faith. “The love and grace of Jesus Christ is really what kept me together when I felt as though I couldn’t continue,” she said.
After graduation this spring, Calanche plans to stay in El Paso and pursue a career as a speech-language pathologist working with pediatric populations.
Calanche advises other students who are single parents to not give up their dreams of higher education.
“Do it for yourself, because one day, you’re going to look back and appreciate that you pushed through,” she said. “Your kids are also going to look back and say, ‘Wow, my mom or my dad did that. I can do anything I want to do; if they did it, I can do it.’”
For more information about the Speech-Language Pathology Program, please visit: https://www.utep.edu/chs/slp/