The odds were not in favor of Danny Morocho ever making it to college.
His parents fled Ecuador when the economy collapsed to search for jobs in the U.S. They left him and his brothers behind to be raised mainly by a teenaged babysitter. When Morocho was 5 years old, his parents found steady work running a trucking company in Bristol, Conn. and sent for him and his brothers.
But life was not easy in Bristol either. His parents worked long hours.
“My father would walk in the door at 11 at night and I was like ‘who is this stranger?’” he said.
Morocho spent most of his free time home alone or hanging out with neighborhood kids.
Family life became even more turbulent when his older brother, then 15, got his girlfriend pregnant. Then a childhood friend committed suicide.
“We didn’t have any guidance,” he said. “A lot of the neighborhood kids ended up doing drugs. As I grew older, I felt like I had to make a decision: either go that route or be someone.”
Now, thanks to a scholarship and lots of hard work, Morocho is about to graduate as a nurse from UConn.
He began his journey to a better life at Tunxis Community College, where he took classes while working full time delivering mattresses for his parents’ company. Three years later, he transferred to UConn, moved onto campus, and focused on his nursing degree. It changed the trajectory of his life.
Morocho shared his life story recently at a scholarship lunch for the School of Nursing. There he got to meet the donor, Lucy A. LaCava ’62 (NUR), who helped make his education possible.
“I don’t think she realizes the impact that she had on my life,” he said.
For her part, LaCava was thrilled to meet Morocho and was moved by his story. She was overwhelmed to hear about the impact her gift has had.
“I’m at an age now where I want to do something to make a difference,” said LaCava, who was a nurse for 43 years at Yale-New Haven Hospital. “I wanted to help people who went to nursing school. What’s greater than that?”
She said the UConn School of Nursing has given her lifelong friends and a comfortable life. Her endowed scholarship helps support two UConn nursing students a year.
As for Morocho, he has already lined up a job as a nurse at UConn Health after graduation. And someday he hopes to go into community health to help other kids who grew up in neighborhoods like his.