Why is Sofia Espinoza taking her health journey? As the mother of three children, she wants to be here for her family. “I do it for my children,” she said. “I need to be healthy so I can be here with them, so I walk every day if I can!”

Sofia Espinoza

Residential Hospice Aide

SIUH Northwell logo


ofia Espinoza’s life has changed quite a bit since she came to the United States from Mexico over 30 years ago. She is currently a Residential Hospice Aide at Staten Island University Hospital, Northwell Health, but Sofia worked a lot of jobs on her way to this one. In her early days in New York, she was a factory worker, but to earn extra money Sofia regularly traveled to Pennsylvania to work as a babysitter. She was always striving and had her sights set higher. “I wanted the American dream,” she said.

Sofia met her husband Rutilo, and they were married 29 years ago. They have three children: Nadia, Jesus and Dania. As a mother of three, the years passed quickly for Sofia, but once the kids were grown, she decided it was time to improve her English. She was working as a Home Health Aide for the Stella Orton Home Care Agency around this time and saw an 1199SEIU flyer that provided information about which hospitals were hiring and what you needed to apply. Although she didn’t have her high school diploma, her newly improved English language skills gave her the confidence to pursue her GED diploma. Her Training and Education (TEF) benefits provided the support she needed. She attended classes every Saturday and earned her diploma through TEF’s High School Equivalency Program in 2020.

What’s the glue that’s held Sofia’s dreams together over the years? Having good health has given her the opportunity to pursue her goals. She relies on her health benefits to keep her that way. After taking care of clients and patients with severe health issues, Sofia wants to do everything she can to stay healthy. When she was diagnosed with diabetes and high cholesterol 20 years ago, Sofia built a long-term relationship with her doctor, who promised to work with her to keep her healthy. “He is very humble and understanding,” she said. “He really is a great doctor. I am so thankful I have him in my life.”

Sofia EspinozaSofia’s doctor prescribed medication and recommended that she eat a healthy diet. So, she cut out junk food and now chooses flavored seltzer over soda. She limits the number of tortillas she eats and started making healthier recipes for her whole family. Exercise is also a part of her health journey. When Sofia brought her daughter Dania along with her to an appointment, her doctor told her something that really hit home. “He told me I need to stay alive for her,” she said. “I knew he was right.” Sofia’s doctor suggested that she walk more for exercise, recommending that she make walking a family activity. She took the advice seriously.

Why does Sofia make the effort? “I do it for my children,” she said. “I need to be healthy so I can be here with them, so I walk every day if I can!”

In 2022, she started working in her current role at Staten Island University Hospital. Sofia believes that earning her GED diploma is the reason she was able to take the next step in her career. She feels grateful that in her new job, she is able to provide comfort for her patients in their final days. “I believe God put me here to help patients feel better,” she said. “Not many people have the opportunity that I have in my job to show compassion as a human being.”

Landing her new job didn’t stop Sofia from pursuing her dreams, though. Last year, she became a U.S. citizen with the support of the 1199SEIU Citizenship Program. They helped her navigate all the forms that needed to be filled out and provided legal assistance and the information she needed to pass the required test. They even sent her a check for $500 to reimburse her for a big part of the fees she paid!

“I am so grateful and happy that this program was there for me,” she said. “My benefits offer so many opportunities for people like me who want a better life.”

For Your Benefit

FYB Archive