First-Gen Student Spotlight: Esme Wolfswinkel

Nursing major aiming for career as nurse practitioner

Esmeralda Wolfswinkel, 33, is earning her Associate of Science (A.S.) in Nursing at Inver Hills Community College. A working mother with three children, Esme is on track to graduate from Inver Hills this December. She has plans to transfer to Minnesota State University, Mankato, and complete her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.). She has centered her career goals on becoming a nurse practitioner specializing in cardiology.

“Cardiology is the field in nursing that most interests me,” Esme said. “The heart is quite an intelligent muscle, so I am looking forward to learning more about its uniqueness.”

Esme is a member of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) at the college, and she also participates in TRIO Student Support Services and Latinos Unidos. TRIO SSS selects 140 students a year to take part in the program. You must be either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, enrolled in a degree program, and taking a minimum of six credits. You must also meet at least one of the following federal eligibility criteria:

  • First-generation college student (parent or guardian did not hold a bachelor’s degree while the student was in high school)
  • Meet federal income guidelines
  • Be eligible to receive accommodations for a documented disability through Accessibility Resources at Inver Hills

Matt Kruger serves as Esme’s TRIO SSS advisor. Matt has been impressed by her resourcefulness as well as her purposeful, congenial approach to college.

“Esme is a great student and an even better person, so it’s been a joy to see her succeed in earning her degree,” he said. “Like many first-generation students, she is not only navigating a new path in college, but also managing other responsibilities as a parent. It has not been easy, but Esme has excelled throughout by using the resources at Inver Hills and connecting with faculty, staff, and her classmates. Along the way, she is always reaching out, welcoming others, and building an inclusive community!”

Latinos Unidos is a student club organized to create conversation, celebration, and a safe space for various ethnic groups at Inver Hills through peer support, cultural activities, social justice initiatives, and community outreach projects—all with goal to build positive change within the campus and local communities.

When asked what she enjoys most about her participation in Latinos Unidos, Emse said: “The community and support. Gabriela Andersen Marín, my Latinos Unidos advisor, focuses on relationship-building, which makes a life of a difference for people like me—a first-generation college and English as a Second Language student. Gaby empowers you to feel confident and trust in yourself and your success. She has made a major impact in my life.”

Esme also mentioned that Gaby was her supervisor when she was a student worker at the college for a few months. “Gaby is by far the BEST and most motivational supervisor and leader I have ever had,” she said.

“In the short time I have known Esme, she has proven to be a resilient woman that is not afraid to pursue her goals and overcome obstacles. Like most first-gen students, Esme has had to confront her barriers and has succeeded in doing so. It was a pleasure to have her work in the Admissions office. She is a great student and a great individual.”
Garbriela Andersen Marín
(She/Her/Ella) Why pronouns matter
Admissions Advisor
Latinos Unidos Club Advisor
Inver Hills Community College

While earning her degree at Inver Hills and raising three daughters, Esme also finds time to work as a health monitor coordinator. She started out working full-time (40 hours a week) for the first year, but switched to a casual, as-available basis to concentrate on studying and passing her exams.

Esme will be attending the First-Generation Student Celebration in the College Center, Room 117 and 118, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., November 15, 2022, and the Nursing Pinning Ceremony in the Fine Arts Theatre, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., December 7, 2022. Both events are important milestones in her academic career.

Esme’s early life in Mexico…

Tenango, Morelos, Mexico, Esme’s hometown (Google Earth)
My favorite things from when I was growing up in my village in Mexico were the following:
  1. Swimming in the river close to our house with my cousins—we used to swim sunrise to sundown on the weekends
  2. We had a mandarin orange tree in our front yard, and I loved lying on the grass under the tree and eating mandarin oranges while daydreaming about my future; my main dream was always going to college to become a doctor
  3. Working in the peanut fields with my mom; it was the only place where children were allowed to work for cash; I loved this because after a long day in the fields, we had enough money to buy food
Esmeralda Wolfswinkel
First-Generation College Student
Nursing Major
Inver Hills Community College
Tenango, Morelos, Mexico (YouTube)

More about Esme…

Esme with nursing classmates

Originally from Tenango, a village with less than 2,000 residents in the State of Morelos in south-central Mexico near Mexico City, Esme is a first-generation college student who dropped out of high school, but went on to earn her GED in 2013. She is deeply motivated to enter the nursing profession and advance to the level of nurse practitioner, or NP, which is an RN with additional education and training in a medical specialty. NPs nationwide make an average annual salary approaching $117,000.

Esme understands how poverty can be a formidable barrier to education and career opportunities. Her life before she made her way to the U.S. was anything but easy.

“I grew up in Mexico and moved to Minnesota when I was 14 years old,” Esme said. “I come from a very poor family; my mother was single with five children and frequently unable to finance our basic needs for food, healthcare, and shelter. Education was a luxury that our family could not afford.”

Esme related that her dedication and commitment as well as the trust her children have in her are bigger than any financial obstacles she may encounter.

“I enrolled in college to fulfill my dream of becoming a registered nurse,” she said.

In her free time, Esme enjoys reading fiction and fantasy novels. She has three daughters, Naomi, 12, Zoe, 11, and Sophia, 6. The family has one dog, a golden doodle named Benji. Esme resides with her daughters and Benji in Chaska, Minnesota.

Esme life, family, and classmates gallery

Words that best describe your experience at Inver Hills:


Esmeralda Wolfswinkel Q & A

Esme Wolfswinkel
How has TRIO Student Support Services helped you adapt to college life?

I started TRIO in my last semester—and I truly regret not getting in sooner. TRIO has help develop a more individualized plan for my education. Matt [Kruger], my TRIO advisor, is always willing to help and open to listening. I never felt rushed during my meetings with him. My experience with other advisors was good; however, my experience with TRIO advisors is extraordinary.

What advice would you give college students who are studying English as their second or third language?

If you do not understand something during your classes or lectures due to the language barrier, ask your instructor for clarification. Do not be afraid or embarrassed. A lot of the times your instructor will rephrase things in a more simple English context.

Why did you choose nursing as your college major?

Nursing has been my passion ever since I was a little girl. Also, nursing is a field that will allow me to work with different cultures and travel around the world, making a difference in people’s lives.

Three words that describe you as a first-generation college student:

How will your experience growing up in poverty in Mexico help you prosper as registered nurse?

I always wanted to be in the medical field; it was also my mother’s dream. Growing up in poverty helped me become more humble and appreciative of the big and small things in life. When I was very young, one of my sisters became very ill, and my mother did not have the money to get her to medical care. In Mexico if you do not have money to pay for your care, you can not receive it.

However, a hometown doctor took my sister in and helped save her life (no money asked). When my mother shared this story with me, I knew the medical field was my calling. I want to be that person who values life, love, and kindness more than money. I want to help people live longer and help families enjoy their loved ones longer.

What do you like best about attending Inver Hills?

The best part about attending Inver are my advisors along with my Nursing instructors, Fatuma Kotile and Sandy George. Their commitment to their students’ education and patient safety is remarkable. Sandy George’s passion for nursing is motivational. I walk out of her lectures with a load of information I never thought my brain was capable of learning. She makes education and nursing look so easy. Which is why I love it!!!!

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

My mother, Norma, is my motivation, my role model. Despite the financial difficulties of raising five children on her own, she never lost hope that her children would one day become college graduates. She has been my pillar and my rock throughout nursing school.

Where do you hope to find yourself in 20 years?

In 20 years, I hope to find myself working in a cardiology clinic as a nurse practitioner.

Esmeralda Wolfswinkel 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: I love running and weightlifting
  2. Place you would most like to visit: I would love to go to Iceland
  3. Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Visited Jamaica
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Pay for my nursing education 2) Fund my children’s education 3) Buy a small hobby farm
  5. Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: Pathophysiology Made Incredibly Easy! Crazy to say this for someone who loves reading, but this book made my pathophysiology learning so fun; if you are in nursing, this book will not only make you learn, but it will also make you giggle
  6. Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: I don’t think I would like to travel in time even if I had the opportunity
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: Visit Iceland
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Eagle for sure
  9. Dream occupation: Cardiology practitioner
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Keanu Reeves…I have the biggest crush on him!
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: I would like to improve my writing skills; as an ESL student, I find it challenging to write APA papers; I would like to master this skill
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Abuse of social media
Learn more about the Nursing program at Inver Hills by contacting:

Inver Hills Community College
Virtual Visit

More about Nursing at Inver Hills…

Nursing is an exceptionally rewarding career where you can make a real difference in people’s lives. Our graduates exceed the national NCLEX-RN pass rate and go on to enjoy great job security as registered nurses (RNs) in this high-demand field.

The Nursing program offers three award options:

Nursing (Traditional Track) • Associate of Science (A.S.) • 75 credits
Nursing Mobility (Licensed Practical Nurse) • Associate of Science (A.S.) • 75 credits
Nursing Assistant • Certificate • 5 credits

Why study Nursing at Inver Hills?

The numbers tell the story.
Our student success is plain to see. Inver Hills nursing graduates are primed for success, achieving nearly 5 percent higher NCLEX-RN pass rates than the national average. More than 90 percent of our graduates find employment as RNs within one year of earning their A.S. degrees.

Accelerate your registered nursing career.
Advanced standing is offered to qualified licensed practical nurses (LPNs) interested in the MANE curriculum, which is designed to propel you toward graduating with your baccalaureate degree within four years.

Be surefooted and confident on your pathway.
Many students enroll at Inver Hills and complete prerequisite courses before applying to the Nursing program, which is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and approved by the Minnesota Board of Nursing.

Nurses make a genuine difference.
Nurses give medicine a human face. They truly care about their patients. They go above and beyond to make sure their patients feel safe and secure during an often very difficult and frightening time in their lives. Nurses are kindness personified in the healthcare system.

You can enter the field in more than one way.
You can earn a Nursing Assistant certificate by completing one 5-credit course. You’ll get the training you need to enter the healthcare field as a nursing assistant or home health aide, and also be prepared to take the state registry exam for certification. The Nursing Traditional Track A.S. and Nursing Mobility–LPN A.S. are 75-credit degrees that prepare you for a fulfilling career as a professional registered nurse.

Nurses are in huge demand.
The ongoing nursing shortage brings job security and great wages to this career path. RNs in the seven-county, Twin Cities metro area earn a median wage approaching $43 an hour. Top earners make nearly $50 an hour. Nurses with advanced degrees make even more: nurse anesthetists in Minnesota earn a median wage topping $100 an hour.

Nursing is the job of a lifetime.
As a professional nurse, you’ll be able to focus your skill development on a particular specialty. RNs with career specializations expand their job opportunities, work-setting options, and scope of patient care. On top of that, nursing is a very high-wage career with a growth rate consistently well above the statewide average. Minnesota will need nearly 50,000 new RNs to meet market demand between 2018–2028.

Career opportunities

Registered nurses (RNs) collaborate as integral members of healthcare teams across a variety of medical settings. As hands-on health professionals, nurses provide essential, personalized care to patients as individuals. Nurses are critical to the healing process while serving as patient, family, and community advocates.

Nurses are required to earn state licensure by taking the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Prospective licensed practical nurses (LPNs) take the NCLEX-PN; prospective registered nurses (RNs) take the NCLEX-RN.

Registered nurses (RNs) with career specializations expand their job opportunities, work-setting options and scope of patient care. You can earn new credentials through educational programs and on-the-job training.


Nurse Practitioners

Diagnose and treat illness, either independently or as part of a health care team.


This career pays well above the statewide median of $23.81/hour


Median: $63.60/hour
High: $66.61/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $63.52/hour
High: $65.53/hour


In Minnesota, there are 4,490 workers employed in this medium-sized career, which is currently in high demand and is seeing very high growth compared to other careers. Growth rate is 45.7 percent, or well above the statewide average.

There will be a need for about 4,513 new Nurse Practitioners to meet market demand between 2020–2030 This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.

Minnesota State CAREERwise Education (November 1, 2022)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *