A selfie of Marina HandAfter enrolling at San Bernardino Valley College, Marina Hand decided to change her course of study and follow her dream — and things have been falling into place ever since. 
While working as a hospital administrator, Hand began taking nursing classes, thinking since her "foot was in the door, I may as well just keep moving forward" in the medical world. She didn't enjoy the courses, and in 2018, a friend encouraged Hand to transfer to Valley College, where they could take classes together and give each other moral support. 
"I thought, maybe I just need someone to cheer me on and I can cheer them on," Hand said.  
Once at Valley, Hand learned that the college offered an associate's degree in Library Technology, and that changed everything. "If I had it my way, I would never leave the library," Hand said, and with the encouragement of her husband, she changed her focus to library tech, taking classes on how to file and shelve books and repair materials. 
"I immediately knew that I belonged," she said. 
At the same time, Hand's husband suffered a severe back injury that left him permanently disabled. She became the family's sole breadwinner, and Hand said she "truly" believes that "if not for Valley's flexibility in online class scheduling, I would not have been able to graduate." 
Hand thrived at Valley, and "came to deeply love the campus community." She was a member of Alpha Gamma Sigma, made the Dean's List, and did community service at the library in Grand Terrace. Her plan was to attend UCLA for her bachelor's degree, but the more Hand learned about the University of Nebraska Omaha and its Library Science program, the more the college appealed to her.  
She worked closely with the program director to map out a course of study, and while she was set to take courses online from her home in Grand Terrace, Hand and her husband decided in September to take the leap and move to Omaha. Hand took another chance and applied for a coveted full-time position at the University of Nebraska Omaha's Criss Library. After a stellar interview, Hand was overjoyed to learn she got the job. 
"In combination with other scholarships and grants I've managed to pick up along the way, I am now attending my dream college at no cost, working at my dream job," she said. "UNO offers my degree plan all the way to my Masters; needless to say I intend to make myself right at home. I wouldn't have gotten this far if Valley didn't offer a library program. I would have failed out of nursing school at Chaffey, and would still be manning a desk at a doctor's office, without benefits and without a future." 
In her new role as a patron services associate at the Criss Library, Hand does everything from assisting students looking for specific materials to setting up displays. "It is incredible," she said. "I feel like I don't actually go to work — I go and hang out at the library all day." 
This is only the beginning for Hand, who is the first person in her family to go to college. She would love to earn her PhD and eventually teach at the University of Nebraska Omaha, and hopes other people who are struggling through classes that aren't the right fit follow her lead and try taking a different path. 
"If it doesn't feel right, it's very likely that it isn't," Hand said. "There is nothing wrong with taking a step back to re-evaluate."