Believe, Achieve, Succeed, then Walk: Charlene’s College Success Story

My Name is Charlene and I recently became a single mother of three. When I graduated from high school I was 18 years old and newly married. I met my husband when I was 16 years old and knew he was what I wanted. I also wanted to be a Nurse Practitioner and deliver babies. I’ve always wanted to help bring life into the world and what better way than being on the receiving end during labor? Life didn’t  go as planned; I was a wife to a man in the military and my dreams seemed to get pushed to the back burner without me even noticing. Before I could blink, it was 12 years later, we had 3 beautiful children, my husband wanted a different life, and I was working in retail. That’s when the talk of divorce came into play. I wanted to fight for our marriage and he wanted to play the field. So, what was I going to do with myself while raising 3 kids? I was lost, I was on my own, hating my job and dealing with Fibromyalgia.

Sitting at the kitchen counter, my sister told me now was the time for me. I needed to go back to school and chase the dreams I set aside. I had no one holding me back, telling me I couldn’t, that I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t good enough and that I would never accomplish anything in my life. I realized at that time that I had allowed negativity in my ear because I was afraid to fail and listening to him was easier than facing my fears.

What made me take the first step? My eldest daughter was struggling in school and through testing we learned she was dyslexic. She felt dumb, like a failure. She had it in her mind that she couldn’t succeed and that she wasn’t good enough and never would accomplish anything in her life. I couldn’t allow those thoughts to consume her as they had me. That was when I decided the best way to do that was to show her. I marched myself down to a school that offered classes convenient to my schedule. I looked my fears square in the eye and faced them by signing up.

Two weeks later in my first class I was anxious: How can I do this? What if I fail? What if I don’t make it? What would the kids think of me then? The Kids… Yes, the kids, the reason I was doing this. No turning back now, I would show them if it was the last thing I did in this world. At that moment, I listened carefully as others shared their story and I realized, I wasn’t alone in this fear-conquering adventure. So many others, starting fresh after a long detour away from their dreams. I would be okay, I was in the right place and I would see this through.

I spent 15 months at Brown Mackie College of San Antonio, in the Medical Assistant program. I wish I could say it was an easy 15 months of my life. Every month was a new “something going wrong” with one thing or another. Also, I spent most of my time during those months studying while sitting in a hospital chair. As if I didn’t have enough going on, I also had parents taking turns in and out of the hospital, first my mom and then my dad. I questioned every thought and every decision. I just wanted to throw my hands in the air and give up. Sitting by my dad’s hospital bed side one night, wondering how I was going to explain to the kids why I didn’t finish school, he woke up to tell me how proud he was of me. How he needed me to keep strong and he would do the same. The next day he turned around and started to make progress in his health. If that wasn’t a sign for me to keep going, I don’t know what would be. I pushed through all those months with one thing in mind, the finish line and the people waiting for me to cross it.Grad pics

The day of my graduation, I was asked why I decided to cross the stage, when so many others opted not to. The answer was simple, because I deserved it. Crossing the stage, getting my fake little paper (real one comes in the mail) and standing by my classmates, the people who had my back and cheered me on in class, was crossing the finish line for me. I went through too much struggle, tears, fears, doubts and overcoming the odds, not to walk that stage. As they called my name, I pushed back my shoulders, picked my head up high and with every step I took, felt the wave of accomplishment pour over me. I DID IT! It was an amazing feeling and all worth it.grad pic with kids

What could possibly have made that feeling better? The fact that my family and friends were sitting in the crowd, yelling my name and cheering me on as they did all those months. More so, the fact that my 3 children were watching me prove to them that you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to. It was such a great feeling and accomplishment. I plan to walk the stage again when I graduate from Nursing School. That’s right, my story isn’t over just yet, and I have another chapter to write.

My message to other moms going to school is this: WALK that Stage. Conquer that moment and bask in the glow of accomplishment. You made it to the finish line, why not cross it? I promise, the feeling you get from walking on end of the stage to the other beats any feeling you get from opening the mail box. This is your time to shine, don’t hold back, only you can stand in your own way. I mean just think, If I can do it with all my struggles while holding on to a 3.87 GPA, I have faith others can too. Walking the stage is just the last step in that adventure.

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