EL PASO, Texas -- A Borderland hospital CEO is receiving national recognition for being a "Latina worth watching."
America Jones has come a long way since she was orphaned at age 5, along with her siblings. She's now CEO of Kindred Hospital in El Paso. She recently sat down with ABC-7 to share her story publicly for the first time.
"Going from one day having two parents to the next day not having your mother and father any more who loved and cared for you... that was hard," says Jones. She was the youngest of four siblings who were left without anyone to care for them after their father shot and killed their mother, then went to prison. Despite this heinous act, she remembers her father fondly as an affectionate man who was the hugger and caregiver.
It's her grandmother, Antonia Rodriguez Salas, or "Abue," whom she credits with helping her become the woman she is today. "Abue" left her home in Mexico to move to El Paso to care for the 5 siblings.
"We always had food, we always had beans... I don't know how my grandma did it," Jones says. "We were poor, but I didn't know that until I went to high school. Kids had cars. We didn't even have a family car!"
Jones was in her second year at UT-Austin when she returned to El Paso to care for her grandmother, who was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. That's when her passion changed unexpectedly from electrical engineering to nursing. She says while bathing, changing and turning her "Abue," she found her true calling.
"I kept thinking, I can do this. That time with her was so special. I knew that's what I was meant to do," Jones says.
Today, as CEO of Kindred Hospital of El Paso, she is caring for not only patients - but employees and support staff as well. The hospital cares for and rehabilitates extremely sick patients, and Jones prides herself as being an advocate for her staff, no matter what their position.
"I'm proud of how far I've come. I'm proud to be a Latina. I'm proud to be a female in a male dominated world of CEO's in hospitals," Jones says. But her family is her biggest love - her husband Wayne, a local fire chief, and sons Dylan and Kody.
She's also no longer afraid to share the truth. Growing up, Jones would tell people her mother had died of cancer, keeping her family's secret of domestic violence private. And she also knows the importance of family.
"Family is everything. Every day we say 'I love you,' and we hold on really tight to the family we have," she explained.
America Jones' write-up can be found in the Diversity Journal, where she was selected as one of the nation's top "Latinas Worth Watching."