Transitioning from being a stay-at-home mom to a full-time student is no easy task. Just ask one of our recent graduates, Samantha Ramos. We are so proud of her for sticking to it and making it through the HCC Coleman LVN program and graduating in August 2022. She finished her licensing exam in December, and we are also so appreciative of her for taking time out of her busy schedule to speak with us about what that journey was like for her. Read on to learn more about the challenges she faced, her motivations to go into the medical field and her experience of working with CIH. Below is the condensed and edited version of our talk.
How did you first hear about CIH?
I heard about the program at the orientation of my first semester of LVN program. They introduced us to some representatives from Capital IDEA Houston that talked us through the process. I went ahead and applied all the while thinking that I was not going to get approved. However, things turned out differently and I was able to get the sponsorship.
Why did you have doubts when you first hear about the program?
I just feel like I’m never granted anything as far as help and resources. It's always, “you make too much money” or “you’re over qualified” and made me doubt that I would be able to get the help from the program. I felt like this isn’t going to work for me, but low-and-behold it did, and it worked out well, and it was a huge help.
What semester where you in when you applied?
I was at the very beginning of the program during our orientation.
And how long is the program?
The program is three semesters long.
So after you applied to CIH, were you able to secure sponsorship for the second and third semester’s tuition?
Yes, the program paid for those semesters and took care of other educational expenses during this period as well.
What were you doing before you got into the program?
I had already been going to school. My plan was to transition to a university to do a bachelor's in nursing but that did not work out due to some other life commitments. I have a family; I have a husband and three children and my oldest and youngest fall on the spectrum and they have autism. So, my youngest had recently been diagnosed and that complicated my plan. After completing my associates in arts, I took time off to be with her and follow through with her therapies and to make sure she had everything she needed. When I felt like she was ready to go to school by herself, I felt like I could finally go back to school to pursue nursing. I was determined to follow through with this goal. I tried to get admitted into Associates of Nursing Program, but there were many miscommunications and complications due to COVID, so I was not able to enroll in that program. I am still grateful that I got into the Licensed Vocational Nurse program at Coleman.
What kind of work were you doing before getting into LVN program?
I was just a stay-at-home mom.
Oh wow, the is incredible.
It’s a lot of work!
Yeah, definitely. It's such a huge effort. Already you have so many commitments as a mom, taking care of kids and seeing a household through and that stuff does not go away. It must have taken a lot of energy to redistribute your time in order to be able to pursue your dream of becoming a nurse.
Even throughout the program I was still doing speech and occupational therapy with my kids because everything was online, everything was on the computer. I would organize an activity for the kids, and right beside them, I would be doing my own schoolwork at the same time. I had to multitask all the time to get everything I needed done.
What were some of the stresses of going back to school?
It was the time commitment. There was a lot of stress about how I was going to pay for the uniforms and books, and throughout the program they kept adding new features that meant we would need more resources. While in the program, they introduced a computerized component that would help us learn how to interface with the patients better. It was an assignment we had to complete as if we were doing clinicals in the hospitals. That alone cost a lot of money. I didn't have the money to pay for it so without the help that I received from Capital IDEA Houston, I wouldn't have been able to pay for it. I would have been stuck trying to come up with that money on my own.
What was the process of filling out the application and working with the staff at CIH?
It was not that difficult. The staff were always there to help along the way. Whenever I had questions, someone was there to tell me what I needed to know. Even if it was something that I had already asked they had the patience to answer all my questions. Everything was so new and I really wanted to make sure that I was doing everything right so that I’d get approved. I would ask them to double check my submissions. Everyone would e-mail me back quickly, and they were extra reassuring that I would qualify despite my doubts.
What were the most meaningful supports you received from CIH?
The program was there for me whenever I needed supplies, uniforms, my books. If ever I needed other things such as food, they would connect me with food pantries and things like that. Lots of different resources that I needed because we all have hard times at one point or another and they were there to support me all along the way.
Even with counseling, If I needed someone to talk to, someone to vent to, because it was a very intense rigorous program. So anytime life pushed me down and I could get back up, my career navigator was there. I loved all the videos that motivated me to continue when I wanted to give up.
Being able to pick up the phone and talk to someone when things at school got stressful was a big help too. There will be times during the program that I didn't think I was going to make it through because I was so overwhelmed with clinicals, so many back-to-back tests and all while keeping my home life in order. I felt like I wasn't doing enough but my career navigator would always reassure me that I was doing a great job. They would even share their own personal experiences of being in school. That really helps because they let me know that I wasn't the only one and that there are other people going through the same journey.
What about the medical field attracted you?
I've always liked helping people. I also grew up around it because my sister had cerebral palsy when she was born and so she was always in and out of surgeries and I was there assisting my mom with whatever I could. From that point on, I became really fascinated with the human body. I always enjoyed staying with people as they got better. I like being the person that can help them understand their ailments and help them have a positive outlook in their daily lives so they can recover faster.
There's been times in my life when I've had a lot of doubts about whether I could really work in the medical field but something in me always kept me going. Working in the medical field is my calling. This is what I’ve wanted to do for a long time and now that I've accomplished it, I'm so happy and I can't wait to see what the work world has for me. I just don't want to stop here: I want to go on to pursue my RN, BSN and eventually become a nurse practitioner.
What advice would you give to someone who's thinking about going back to school?
They need to know that there is never going to be the right time to start. There are always going to be excuses about why you can't do it right now. Don’t wait. No matter the age you are, there is never a right or wrong time to go back to school and you have got to just do it.
I had a lot of doubt about being in school with a bunch of younger students and even had people tell me that I ruined my life because I had children early in life and that having a family would completely derail my plans for education, but you can't listen to those people. Those people are wrong. If I want to better myself, I'm going to keep going and prove those people wrong. If I had listened to those people I would still be stuck in the same situation, not working towards my dreams. We all want to reach our dreams and work at a job that we're passionate about so just don't listen to any negativity.
You have to believe in yourself to accomplish the goals that you want to achieve. Take it one day at a time. Make daily goals for yourself. Use to-do list to help organize yourself. You're never going to get everything done in one day so just take it one step at a time.
Know that nothing ever goes as planned. There would be days when I would have a list of things to do and none of it would get done but you still have to prioritize your goals. What you want to do once you throw yourself in it is just roll with the punches and keep going. Things won't always go your way. You'll have a lot of disappointments. You'll have your good days and your bad days, but you have to keep going in order to reach your end goal. I never thought I was going to graduate. I always thought the road was too long and the light was too far ahead, and I was never going to reach it but there comes a time where you have to tell yourself a different message. You have to tell yourself that you can do it.
There's a lot of uncertainty in the process but you have to breathe and take it one step at a time. You also you have to dedicate some time for yourself, even if it's just 30 minutes, take breaks. You can't just study nonstop without any rest.
When you feel like you're going to quit, you have to remind yourself of your reasons for being there and develop positive coping mechanisms. You’ll start to look back at all the stress and worry and feel stronger. You’ll start to develop a greater sense of confidence that lets you know that you can continue and do other great things.
Great advice, Samantha. Thank you for all that you’ve shared.
If you are ready to jump start your livelihood, join us at one of our upcoming virtual info sessions to find out how we have helped more than a thousand students achieve self-sufficiency and get the training they needed with a sponsorship from Capital IDEA Houston: www.capitalideahouston.org/infosession