MILWAUKEE - When campuses shut down and college basketball seasons were canceled in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was a sense of uncertainty about what was next for many student-athletes.
One UW-Milwaukee basketball player was able to use the time to her advantage.
Bre Cera wears her Panthers uniform with pride. A redshirt senior on the women's basketball team, most of her time is spent on the court.
"We are really thankful to be back," Cera said.
Once a week, she trades her UWM uniform for one that is a lot more protective.
Basketball court at the UW-Milwaukee's Klotsche Center
"All my life it has been basketball, basketball, basketball. And it is kind of weird to transition into something that is going to be the rest of my life," said Cera.
Cera is a nursing major and, during the pandemic this summer, she landed an internship at Ascension St. Joseph's Hospital in Milwaukee.
"Because of basketball I always planned to just be too busy to do an internship. Not having basketball was kind of like the perfect time that I could do that," Cera said. "I just kind of turned that into something that really worked out well for me."
Cera has been interning at the hospital since early June, gradually learning what it takes to become a nurse.
"In the beginning, it was just kind of shadowing and working alongside the nurse that I am with. Now it has kind of progressed where I will take three of her patient load," said Cera. "It has really been nice. I have kind of gotten to be quite independent with working with patients."
The floor Cera works on is the only floor that has patients battling the coronavirus, so taking precautions and wearing PPE is key.
Despite the challenges, it has made Cera realize that nursing is her true calling.
"I have kind of been exposed to it all my life. My mom is a nurse. I do love forming relationships. I feel like I am a really personable person. That is why I love nursing, because you get to spend a lot of time with someone. And it is really great to make that impact on their health and their life," Cera said.
These days, Cera is doing a balancing act -- working at the hospital and practicing for the current basketball season.
"I know of some teams that can't even have practices. So even though we have to wear masks and it is a little different of a setup, we are just thankful to be here," said Cera.
It also helps to have a familiar face on the team -- Cera's younger sister, Angie.
"It is awesome. My sister is my best friend, but we have never gotten to play together. So my fifth year has allowed us to be together." Cera said.
Bre and Angie Cera
Despite the unusual year, Cera has made the most of 2020 and has some big milestones ahead. She got engaged this summer and hopes to finish her college career on the court.
"I just love nursing in general. I don't have an end goal in mind, so whatever opportunity comes my way would be awesome," said Cera.