Gator Nurse Inspires the Next Generation

Traditional BSN student Maresa McNeill is paving the way for two generations of Gator Nurses! Learn how she is studying to become a nurse, alongside her 14-year-old daughter Santana, in this Q&A.

Why did you decide to return to college to earn your nursing degree?

Maresa (right) with daughter, Santana.

My daughter, in first grade at the time, came home after school and said, “I’m going to be a Gator!”

Not being from Florida and graduating from Penn State, I found this odd but supported her dream. In 2021, we headed to Georgia for a camping trip. On the way, I brought my daughter to UF to tour the university. Knowing I wanted to change careers, my daughter encouraged me to go back to school. She said, “Maybe we can BOTH be Gators some day!”

The passion and excitement in her face are what motivated me to want to make her proud. I called THAT day and spoke to an advisor at UF. I would spend the next year working on prerequisites for nursing school.

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

I was an elementary school teacher within the public school system in Orlando for many years. I taught through COVID-19. Before the pandemic, I was looking into other careers. I wanted a career that allowed for more growth, but that would be equally rewarding and community based.

My daughter has wanted to be a doctor since she was four-years-old. Doc McStuffins was VERY popular at the time. Watching me in nursing school and also being able to watch my brother (who is a Doctor of Nursing) has opened up her mind to not only still becoming a doctor but also becoming an advanced practice nurse. She “jumped” on the opportunity to join the licensed practical nurse program offered at her high school

How do you find the experience with both of you studying at the same time?

It’s AMAZING! We help each other study. Her curriculum (at least in the beginning) is similar to mine with learning PPE and infection control. I practice my skills with her and vice versa, creating lasting memories. She’s studying hard right with me.