Nurse Karen Carrillo always knew she wanted to be a nurse—she wanted to help those in need. After graduating 44 years ago, Carrillo began her career in Canada doing direct care in psychiatry; afterwards, she became a director of nursing in home health care, providing specialized, personal care to homebound patients. Later, Carrillo found herself working at San Gabriel High School, where she will now be ending her long career in nursing after 25 years as a school nurse.
“It’s time for me to retire, but I honestly could work until I die. It wouldn’t bother me one bit if I worked for another 10 years,” Carrillo said. “[Being a school nurse] is just the most amazing opportunity and role that anyone could play. [It] has never stopped being a challenge; there’s always something more to accomplish at a school.”
Throughout her time at San Gabriel, Carrillo has done more than just treat minor headaches and slight fevers. In the late 1990s, she helped organize a “Mental Health Week” that provided workshops giving much-needed support to students, teachers, and parents struggling with issues such as grief, alcoholism, and acceptance of mental illness.
With her contributions, Carrillo is undoubtedly a mentor and influential figure to many; however, Carrillo focuses more on the knowledge she has gained from interacting with students.
“Teenagers are my favorite people. I say that over and over, but I’m not kidding you. I learn more from teenagers than I could possibly ever teach them in a million years,” Carrillo said.
While working as a school nurse, Carrillo also juggled additional jobs; at one point, she worked four jobs at the same time. After much thought, she decided that 2017 would be the year she would retire.
“I have so many hobbies and things that I’d love to do,” Carrillo said. “I’m almost 65, so I’ve decided I’d like to get all those other things into my life before I’m gone.” Her hobbies include making jewelry, knitting, and reading.
Carrillo expresses that she will always remember the courage that she has seen students carry in face of adversity.
“When you’re hurt and you’ve had adults that have done you [wrong] for years and years, you don’t have much reason to trust anybody. For those students to come in here and trust an adult they don’t even know to help them… that has really left an impression on me every day since I came here,” Carrillo said. “That is a thing I will always carry with me—that ability and trust that kids have to be able to change their lives.“