The day that Alma Ayala of Chula Vista took her first diabetes education class at Scripps, she went home to her husband ecstatic with joy. She finally had hope that her diabetes would not control her life.
She recalls, “I literally went home crying and told my husband, ‘Can you believe that I’m not going to lose my kidneys? Can you believe that I won’t have to cut my legs off? Can you believe that I’m not going to be blind?’ I was becoming empowered and ready for a better future. I’ll never be able to express what that signifies for me.”
Twenty five years later, Alma is the primary instructor for the Diabetes Prevention Program at Scripps where she has been working for over 17 years.
Before becoming a community educator, however, Alma was a diabetes patient and participated in Project Dulce, a Scripps-sponsored diabetes care and education program that operated in community clinics.
“The program was created in order to help people with diabetes," says Alma. "The educator at the time, Magdalena, who was also my mentor, I thank her. She taught me many things. She literally took me by the hand and made an appointment for me, I went to her classes, and for me, that was the best thing that could have ever happened in my life.”
In Project Dulce, Alma learned how to manage her diabetes through means of lifestyle changes and from nutritionists, nurses, and educators. Being a part of the program completely changed Alma’s life — and inspired her to assist in a class.
In the class, Alma leads her students, both young and old, through a series of presentations, group activities and hands-on learning experiences.
Some of the unique teaching items you'll find in her classroom include toy food, posters detailing nutrition facts, markers, handouts and portioned plates that Alma has made herself. In her words, “Education equals prevention.”
Through Alma’s hard work and her commitment to education, her students have regained their confidence in taking care of themselves, and have even been motivated to assist her in teaching. One student of Alma’s class, Maria Ambriz, says that it was through this class she was able to lose 42 pounds in a matter of months.
To Alma, there's nothing more important than the accessibility of education to the people who need it most.
“I want everybody in the community to be healthy. At the end of the day, our mission is to say no to Type 2 diabetes, and continue striving to give our best for the program and the community and do them in different languages, the most common being English and Spanish."
Alma adds, "If people don’t have health insurance, they are welcome. A majority of our programs offered don’t cost a thing. So, anybody who wants to stay healthy is welcome here with us at Scripps.”
When asked about why she enjoys working with and for people who have diabetes, Alma simply said, “I’m very passionate about what I do because I know that through this, my life has changed and I can help other people have hope that their life can change, too.”
Take charge of your health and learn more about the Scripps Healthy Living, Diabetes Prevention and Diabetes Education programs. Call 800-727-4777 to register for a free orientation session with the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute.