Inspiring grads: Suddenly homeless, student finds support on campus

Nina Ambida; inspiring grad
Nina Ambida (Photo: Fan Wang)

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During the fall of her sophomore year, Nina Ambida suddenly found herself homeless.

After suffering financial, emotional and physical abuse from a family member, Ambida needed to find a safer living environment.

She wasn’t sure where to go, but campus mentors and friends came through for her, providing support and opening their homes to her.

“It was a really hard time because I didn’t really have anyone to support me financially,” said Ambida, a senior in nursing. “At first, a friend let me stay with him and his family treated me like family, and I will never forget that.

After that, I ended up living with a couple of different friends for a month at a time.

“But it helped me to see the people who were really there for me.”

She worked three jobs to make ends meet, including one as an orientation leader, which provided stable housing for that summer. Her earnings from the three jobs helped her pay for her own apartment the next semester.

She found emotional support from the UIC Campus Advocacy Network — which provides services for UIC students, staff and faculty who have experienced sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and hate crimes — as well as her mentors, Asian American Resource and Cultural Center director Mark Martell and associate director Jeff Alton.

“Mark and Jeff were so supportive and always made sure to let me know that this wasn’t my fault and that I was doing a really good job, even though there were times I felt like I wasn’t,” she said. “They always checked in on me and made sure I was doing OK. They helped me find a family outside of my own family.”

Ambida now works as a certified nursing assistant, balancing her coursework with 12-hour shifts twice a week.  

“I don’t really sleep a lot,” she said. “But during the really hard times, friends have come to support me and help me study. When I get tired and wonder, ‘Why am I putting myself through this?’ I always try to remember why I wanted to be a nurse in the first place.”

Her passion for nursing stems from a desire to help others, which has only grown stronger through her own struggles.

“I’ve worked with a lot of people who are sick and I want to be the one to help them achieve their own goals and dreams in life,” Ambida said. “I want to be the person to help them become better again.”

After graduation, Ambida plans to take her nursing licensure exam and hopes to become a nurse at UI Health. She wants to spend more time supporting and advocating for domestic violence survivors, both at work and in the community.

“That’s something I hold very close to me because we don’t really know where people are coming from and what they have experienced,” she said. “I think it’s always important to be kind.”

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