The sky's the limit and my determination and drive is my spaceship

Bellingham student, Lani T., has already earned her Certificate, Associate and Bachelor degrees and will soon be working on her Master in Business Administration (MBA) at Charter College. Her career choice is the medical field, and she is currently working in her field. In this article, she talks about why she came back to school, her challenges as a student and what’s motivating her to be successful.

Charter Success (CS): What did you do before Charter College?

Lani:  Before I started at Charter College over three years ago, I was working three jobs at once. None of them were allowing me the opportunity to advance or work towards a career.  They were just jobs, and I wanted a career.

CS:  Why did you decide to go to college?

Lani:  My education path was anything but normal.  Not only was I a military child, and did not stay at any school for a long period of time, but I did not graduate from high school at the average age.  I was involved in every sport I could, from basketball, volleyball, softball, swimming, track and even wrestling (I was the first female wrestler in Washington, DC).  During my senior year, I became pregnant in 1980 at the age of 16 with my daughter, Tomica, who is my best friend in life.  I thought my dream of going to college was over, let alone completing high school.  I became employed by the Atlantic City Board of Education and, thankfully, they had a night school program which allowed me to obtain my high school diploma.  In 1996, I went to my senior prom and walked in my graduation ceremony at the age of 32. I was the oldest graduate of my school, but the pride I felt was well worth it.

CS:  Why did you choose your field of study?

Lani:  I have been a lifeguard since the age of 14, so going into the medical field was a no brainer.  I have always been interested in medicine, and I love to help others.

CS:  Overall, how would you describe your experience at Charter College?

Lani:  My overall experience at Charter College has been multiple explosions of happiness, excitement, comfort, encouragement and craziness.  From the moment I walked in the door and met Ms. Grimstead, I knew I was at home.  Many of my instructors have been great, but Ms. Clark is absolutely awesome.  When I didn’t think the information was sinking in and that I could not pass the program, she gave me the encouragement and words of wisdom that allowed me to not only finish my certification program but go on to my associate and bachelor degrees.  My next step will be my MBA. 

CS: Did you have any special challenges or struggles while going to school that made you a better student?

Lani:  My challenges were the same as some. I would say my brain, being 47 and now 50, and trying to keep up with the younger generation in school.  I am a mother of four children and Nana to five beautiful babies and have a long distance relationship (1 hour away, HAHA). Trying to balance school, working three jobs and taking care of my family, along with all the homework, is crazy.  I was injured in 2007 and have a pain level of 5 - 7 on a daily basis, sometimes more.  My determination to be a great student, not just a student, helped me overcome these small obstacles.

CS: Do you have children and a job and, if so, how did you balance it with school?

Lani: At times I was only able to get about 4 hours of sleep a night between working and school. Luckily, my children are grown, so that helped a lot.  Once I finished my externship and was hired by Bellingham Surgery Center in 2013, I was finally able to work 1 job and get 7 hours of sleep a night. I felt like I was on vacation.

CS:  How did you feel at your graduation and receiving your diploma?

Lani:  At my graduation, I felt on top of the world.  I think my children and friends were the loudest in the audience.  I had the honor of being the speaker for the medical assisting class. I was so nervous, but my heart was so full with all the love and support I felt.  I even got to call out Krista from the library and my instructor Maggie, who I made cry and vice versa.

CS:  What are your future plans with your degrees?

Lani: Once I complete my bachelor degree in about 7 weeks, I plan to take a 5 week vacation and then jump back in for my MBA. I have always loved school, and I think I am addicted to learning.

CS: What advice would you give to students who are in school or just starting (attitude, study tips, etc.)?

Lani:  I would tell them that the instructors’ duties are to give you the information and resources, but it is up to you to comprehend the knowledge.  There are other books and resources that can be used and tutoring is available.  DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP.  I purchased books from Value Village to help me understand my courses more.  There is always someone at the school and your online instructors are always willing to help.  Also, NEVER GIVE UP. If I can pass Physics, Psychology and College Math with A’s online, along with a long list of other classes, so can they.

CS:  What motivated you to keep going?

I am a very determined person and, knowing what is at the end of this journey helped motivate me.  Also, the pride for myself and from my family was a huge motivator.  I would say to those who said I couldn’t do it or was too old to go to school, I ignore negative people and pray for them.

CS:  Is there anyone you want to thank that contributed to your success?

Lani:  My list of those who I am thankful to for contributing to my success is very long.  First and foremost, God. Without him, none of this would be possible.  My children, Tomica, Herbert, Cameron and Dante for helping me keep my eye on the prize.  My amazing other half, Kali, who has my back and keeps me on track.  Bellingham Campus Staff, Krystal Grimstead- Admissions, Dawnell Fish- Career Services Officer, Maggie Clark - Instructor, Krista - Library, Jordan in Financial Services and so many others, are the glue that held me together for the past four years.

CS:  If you're working in your field, what are your responsibilities and do you feel that Charter College prepared you for the job?

Lani:  I am currently working for Bellingham Ambulatory Surgery Center as an Insurance Verification Clerk.  I received my job offer before I even completed my externship.  I feel that Charter College more that prepared me for my success.  I have received two raises and my own office in less than two years here.  I verify patients’ insurance, complete collection follow-up, obtain authorizations, assist with coding and scheduling and complete patient registration.  Before I started Charter, all of the duties that I am responsible for were like a foreign language to me.  I have had excellent on the job training and mentoring, but the basis of my knowledge came from Charter.

One last thing I want to say to future students is don’t make excuses.  I have had to overcome a lot of hurdles, but in the past nine years, I have gone from homeless, carless and jobless to having a great apartment, a 2013 Chrysler 200 and a career I love.  I may not have everything I want, but I have everything I need and my journey is not over yet.  One day I will be the director of a facility or perhaps the owner of my own company. The sky's the limit and my determination and drive is my spaceship.