A newly-qualified nurse who graduated from the same university where he used to work as a janitor hopes others are inspired by his story of hard work and perseverance.

Frank Baez started cleaning patient rooms, bathrooms and hallways at New York University's Langone Tisch Hospital on weekends as a 17-year-old high school student. He was helping to support his family, who had emigrated from the Dominican Republic when he was 15.

On Monday, he graduated from NYU’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing at the age of 29.

“I am so excited. I hope this message gets out to people and inspires them to follow their dreams and accomplish their goals,” he told CTVNews.ca.

“Never give up.”

He said he could barely speak English when he started working as a janitor. But he was drawn to the medical field, and became a patient transporter, delivering patients to tests and surgeries. He was constantly inspired by the care and compassion offered by nurses.

He eventually left his hospital job to finish his bachelor’s degree, becoming the first in his family to graduate from college. He majored in Spanish literature and minored in biological science.

Then he was encouraged by the nurses he worked with to apply to nursing at NYU and he was accepted into an accelerated 15-month program.

Baez, who graduated with a 3.6 GPA (an A average), has already set his next goal of becoming a critical care nurse in an intensive care unit. He also wants to pursue a master’s degree one day.

He credits his success to being disciplined and working hard. Baez attended nursing classes daily from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then rushed to a hospital to work 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. as a unit clerk. He only dropped to part-time in his final, most intense, semester.

“Anything is possible if you really want it and you are dedicated about it,” said Baez, who is focused on writing his licensing exam and will then concentrate on landing a job. Future goals include completing a master’s degree and becoming a critical care nurse.

“He’s a real dream graduation story,” said Jim Pace, senior associate dean of academic programs at the Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

“I have heard people say that he is a real comfort to people and can help walk down their fear. That is so important in this field.”

Natalya Pasklinsky was a charge nurse at the hospital where Baez worked as a teen. She says he was always asking questions of the nurses and went out of his way to ensure patients were cared for and comfortable. Those qualities will make him a “fantastic nurse.”

The two were reunited when Baez entered nursing school, where Pasklinsky had become director of clinical simulation.

“I’m very proud of him that he pursued his dream,” she said. “Watching him on that stage (at graduation), I was tearing up a little.”

His mother was also crying during the ceremony, says Baez.

“She can’t believe it. It’s been a long journey for both of us but she’s always been there to support me,” he said. “It was a very heartfelt moment for both of us.”