When students at Endeavor Academy meet Jose Parra, they’re often surprised.
They’re surprised to find him hanging out in the hallways during passing periods. They’re captivated by his friendly, easygoing nature. But they’re skeptical when they learn Parra is Endeavor’s school nurse.
“If I didn’t have the badge with RN on it, they probably wouldn’t believe it,” Parra laughs.
The Puerto Rico-born Parra is tall, handsome and hip. For proof of the latter, just watch this video of him dancing in the Endeavor talent show with security specialist Tracy Waddles.
Parra is also in great shape; it’s obvious that he works out and takes good care of his health. To most people, he looks more like a PE teacher than a school nurse. But nursing is his passion, something he discovered more than a dozen years ago while working as a health technician in San Antonio, Texas.
“I was able to see the interactions between the nurse and the patient and I thought it was just great,” Parra recalls.
So he earned his nursing degree and spent eight years working as a nurse in a hospital, in both the pediatric intensive care unit and the emergency room. He loves the variety that a career in nursing offers.
“I really like the flexibility and variety of specialties that you can go into,” Parra said.
But most of all, he loves that nursing gives him an opportunity to connect with people.
“I want to come in and try and establish relationships and help out as much as I can… I want to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Parra is certainly doing that at Endeavor, which is the Cherry Creek School District’s alternative high school. Endeavor serves students who have not found success in the traditional high school setting. It offers them a structured, personalized learning environment with smaller class sizes, which Parra believes is one of the school’s biggest benefits.
“It’s a smaller population so I’m able to connect with a lot more students,” Parra explained. “Not as much gets missed. We bond well… We have great relationships with the staff and we build great relationships with the students so I think it’s the perfect environment.”
Parra says the entire Endeavor staff is committed to the goal of helping students re-engage in school and earn their high school diploma. It’s something he can relate to in a very personal way.
“I attended an alternative high school,” Parra said. “I didn’t make the best decisions growing up so I took a similar path to what they’re on right now.”
Because of that, he can connect with Endeavor students in an authentic way. He speaks from personal experience when he tells them that the challenges they’re facing now won’t last forever.
“I love building relationships with all the students; the interaction is great,” Parra said. “Once you get to know them you can see where they are emotionally and you can speak to that. You can see when they’re happy about things; you can be involved in some of their achievements.”
Parra is also helping them expand their horizons and consider a career many students – especially young men – may not have thought about before.
“Coming into the field myself I had to deal with a lot of stereotypes, so I think being in this role helps them see another avenue to make a living,” Parra said. “I get more guys coming in to ask me questions about my career path and nursing in general.
“I tell them it’s a rewarding field. There are so many things you can do in nursing. The opportunities are just wonderful,” he added.