Gianna Nino-Tapias, figured when she graduated with a master’s degree in epidemiology from Stanford this past year, a good job was ahead.
But she discovered COVID-19 has no sympathy for dreams. In the pandemic she lost her job. So she headed home to Washington.
“My family has worked in the fields my whole life,” Gianna said. “So I thought in the worse case scenario, I thought I could go with my mom in the fields.”
The pandemic has rendered many worst-case scenarios. So with tuition bills mounting, Gianna found herself rising at 3 a.m. with the family to the fields every morning to pick blueberries.
I was a little disappointed about going back to the fields, but you know it’s humble and honest work,” said Gianna
Gianna began working in the fields when she was 14. But her return to them had taken her back working alongside the very people who had encouraged her to go to college in the first place.
Everyone in the fields tells you ‘get a job where you can have air condition, you don’t have to work outside like us, you don’t have to work as hard as us,'” she said. “When I left to college I thought “I’ll never have to come back here again, I’ll have an education and be able to get a good job.”
But there was no bitterness in her tone over her unplanned trajectory. She said the difficult work, 8 to 10 hour days in temperatures sometimes hitting 110 degrees, will prepare her for the rigors of medical school when she returns to Stanford.
“As I go into medical school and start my rounds at three in the morning,” she said, “I think that will be a lot less of a challenge than going in the fields.”
While Gianna yearns to return to Stanford to begin medical school, she knows her path will eventually lead right back to the same fields. She hopes to maybe work one day in the small Mexican village where her parents are from — but ultimately, she plans to return to the fields of Eastern Washington to provide badly needed medical care to farmworkers and Native American communities.
“It’s where I came from,” she said. “It’s the people that raised me, that supported me when I was dreaming about going to college and I definitely want to come back and serve.” @gjnt4