In high school, I wasn’t a good student because I wasn’t interested in learning. But I knew that I was smart. When I graduated from East Cleveland’s Shaw High School in 1975, I got married and had my first child at age 17.
Ten years later, I was living in Akron and was a mother to six children—all boys. Once the house was cleaned, the clothes folded, and the older kids were in school and my baby was in kindergarten, what was I to do? I’m not a soap opera kind of girl—I felt like I wasn’t using my brain at all. I came to the conclusion that I was too smart not to go back to school to get a piece of paper.
I took some classes at Stark State College to see what I could learn and I ended up writing a report on nursing. I was attracted to the idea of helping people, and I realized that the field offered a lot of diverse opportunities.
In 1985, I enrolled at the W. Howard Nicol School of Practical Nursing on the campus of Portage Lakes Joint Vocational School’s (Now PLCC) to earn a licensed practical nurse (LPN) certificate. I do remember it was stressful for me, going back to school. I had to fight with a husband who was very domineering and didn’t want me to have a career. My oldest was in eighth grade at the time and I had to rely on him, more than anybody, to help around the house while I was studying. I questioned myself because I didn’t know what I was made of and I didn’t know if I could do it.
I learned a lot in a short period of time. I couldn’t be an A student—I had too much going on at home—but the instructor who ran the program told me, ‘You are a nurse.’ She could tell that I had compassion and the passion for taking care of people. Every single clinical I had I was like, oh, I want to do that. I didn’t have a favorite specialty.
That program at PLCC back in the ‘80s taught me to be an LPN, and LPNs are still a hot commodity. Today, especially with COVID-19, it’s all hands on deck for us.
My first job was at a nursing home, then I worked at Summit County Jail—they were totally different experiences.
Patients loved me and I loved my patients. People don’t mind you helping them if you let them know that you want to help them. I picked up on that quickly, and I truly believe that happy patients heal better. Nursing is therapeutic for me and it’s something I can offer to another soul.
In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, AIDS patients were isolated and people were scared to be close to them. One very sick young man told me that I was the only person who treated him like a human being. He asked me to hug him. I gave him the biggest momma hug I had. He cried and I cried. It was then that I realized the importance of nursing. I could be the last human touch for a patient. Being a nurse is like being a mother but with medicine: You give hugs, show patients love, and let them know you’re there for them.
I loved nursing so I went back to Stark State College to earn an RN degree but I had to withdraw because I had no support at home and was dealing with a lot of negativity. When I eventually divorced and became a working single mother, I had some help from family, friends, and people from church.
I worked at local hospitals, as a traveling nurse in Texas, and as an independent nurse provider. My jobs allowed me to do what I love while I provided for my family. My boys, to this hour, have my back. I love them so much and I’ve always tried to be an example to them. I wanted them to see that if you can believe it, you can achieve it.
At age 49, I started working on my bachelor’s degree at the University of Akron. I had to do something for myself because I felt like I was getting swallowed up as the go-to person at work and with my family. I cried because I was so intimidated by the campus and the number of classes I had to take—and I was scared of failing. I had other things going on that made life difficult. My dad was sick and came to live with me at that time so I was taking care of him. I was also battling sciatica pain that was so severe I could hardly walk. But I made the dean’s list three times…that was an out-of-body experience for me. I graduated with a bachelor’s in organizational supervision in 2013.
I went on to earn a master’s in public health administration in 2016 at Kent State University. My brother was my biggest cheerleader and he wanted me to go all the way with my education. Before he died of a brain tumor, he told me, ‘Do it, sis’—so I enrolled in a doctorate program.
I worked as an LPN at a detox facility to pay my way through my master’s and doctorate programs. I was able to go to school, study and fit three 12-hour shifts into my schedule.
At age 64, on May 23, 2022, I graduated with a doctorate in healthcare administration from Kent State University. I didn’t think I’d ever be here. It’s not the same as earning a doctorate in your 20s or 30s. You don’t work for money at my age, you find an area where you have passion and try to make a difference. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do next but my job is to be available to God to use me in any capacity I’m needed.
In my family, it’s a thing—when I win, we all win. Those degrees are for my whole family, all the way back to my grandmother who had a seventh-grade education. Now, I’m a grandmother to 15 grandchildren.
My advice to them and anyone else is to finish whatever you’re pursing. A lot of people get close but because of finances or family situations, and then they quit. You can stop…but you have to finish. You don’t want to have a regret.
We take pride in our facility and welcome the opportunity to show it off! You would never buy a car without looking at it first. Choosing the place to give you a head start on a successful path in life should be no different. We invite you to schedule a tour of our beautiful campus. We’re pretty sure you’ll be impressed!
If you are a high school student, please note that you will have several opportunities to visit PLCC during your sophomore year.
Once we receive your request, a PLCC staff member will follow up directly. Thank you for your interest, we look forward to seeing you soon.
Portage Lakes Career Center is accessible to visitors with physical disabilities. Visitors should contact the Main Office at 330-896-8200 prior to arrival for parking instructions and other information.