In September 2017, I graduated from The College of Health Care Professions (CHCP) with a bachelor’s degree in Health Informatics. Though I had completed the program online, I drove nearly 200 miles from my home in San Antonio, Texas, to the graduation ceremony in Houston. That might seem like a lengthy drive, but it was nothing compared to the long journey I had travelled to earn my degree.
Plus, I had a few people I needed to thank.
I first went to college in 1979. Unfortunately, my father became sick just a few months later, and I dropped out to move back home and help out. Over the next few decades, I struggled through several jobs that offered few options for a true career. I knew I did not yet have the skills or certifications I needed to find a job I loved, and I always hoped that one day I could go back to school.
Thirty years after I first left college, I was laid off for the third time in my life. I knew it was time to make a change. I knew it was time to enroll in a program that could help me find more fulfilling and stable work.
By this point, however, I was helping my daughter to raise her two children. I knew that I needed a program that could grant me the flexibility to go to continue going to work and helping with my grandsons at home in San Antonio. Thanks to my husband’s veteran benefits, my kids and I were able to achieve our dream of higher education. I chose The College of Health Care Professions and earned a Medical Billing and Coding Certificate in 2008.
As I started working in a more stable job, I grew hungrier for the next step in my education and career journey. I went on to enroll in an online associate degree program at The College of Health Care Professions to become a Medical Office Specialist, that allowed me to continue from the credits I already earned through my certificate program.
Even with the freedom and support that the program offered, going back to school — especially while working and helping to raise my grandsons — was a daunting process.
Thankfully, my advisors, Evan Guillory and Yolanda Williamson were there with me every step of the way. They were always quick to respond to my phone calls and emails, helping me find the answers to whatever questions were worrying me. When my father passed away in 2013, Mr. Guillory and the student services office worked to provide me with the time I needed to heal and focus on my family.
With the support of my advisors and amazing instructors, I earned my associate’s degree in 2015 and I quickly made the decision to keep going, and to complete my bachelor’s degree.
In 2015, my mother passed away. Losing both my parents while working and going to school was more than tough. School became more difficult than ever before. But my teachers and advisors understood and helped me when I struggled. When I was feeling especially down, I called Mr. Guillory and he would offer me the words of encouragement I needed to keep at it.
In 2017, I completed the bachelor’s program in Health Informatics. After three and a half years of talking to Mr. Guillory and his colleagues over the phone — three and a half years of them helping me work through tragedy to earn my degree — I knew I had to thank them in person. My family and I drove the three hours to Houston, and I finally met Evan Guillory and Yolanda Williamson. It was an emotional day that I will never forget.
The degree allowed me to achieve my career goals. I’m proud to share that I have recently accepted a position as a Medical Records Technician at Brooke Army Medical Center It’s difficult to overstate just how important student services and academic advisors can be to a student’s success and their journey to a career– especially for online students, adult learners, and other so-called non-traditional students. It can make all the difference. It certainly did for me.