Stephanie Mason had a plan. From a young age, she wanted to be a nurse so she could help people. Her plan was to graduate from high school and go to nursing school, but that was put on hold when she was 16. Through the Ohio Adult Diploma Program at Warren County Career Center, she is now realizing her dreams that she had given up on by earning her diploma and State Tested Nursing Assistant certification in 2020, and recently graduating Magna Cum Laude from Hondros College with her Practical Nursing degree.
“At 16 I found out I was pregnant, my pregnancy was high risk, so I was placed on strict bedrest to prevent preterm labor,” she said. “Of course, this meant I would have to drop out of school and put my nursing dream on hold for my baby as I had no other option. Since I was a single mother without a diploma I started working in factories. These kinds of jobs paid the best money I would be able to make, but meant long, hard hours away from my baby, lots of child care expenses, and I still did not seem to be able to make enough money. I had given up on my nursing dream and planned to settle for my GED. Being a young single mom, I never had the extra money to pay for GED classes so I had to put it on hold. Seven years I continued doing the same work and struggling this way until I moved to Ohio.”
When she moved to Ohio, she started saving to afford her GED. She came to WCCC and met with adult education counselor Bob Sheehan to schedule her exam. He told her about the Adult Diploma Program, offered through the WCCC Aspire office, and how the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) could help her. At no cost, adults over the age of 22 can enroll in a short-term training program and earn certification and their Ohio high school diploma through ADP.
“It was like a light at the end of the tunnel!” she said. “I would be able to earn my high school diploma after all! From there I discovered the Aspire program and WIOA which is where I found out I would be able to get my STNA and attend nursing school. Without the help on WCCC, Aspire, and WIOA I would not be where I am today. They cleared the way for me to accomplish my dream that I had given up on long ago.”
Returning to school after being out for several years can cause anxiety, but the WCCC instructors and coordinators help ease fears and welcome students of all ages.
“I was definitely apprehensive because it had been almost eight years since I had been in school,” she said. “WCCC staff were very supportive and encouraging to not only me but everyone in my program. Most of the people in the program have not been in school for years, so going back was intimidating, but (Instructor) Linda (McBride) believed in us and helped us to believe in ourselves.”
Instructor Linda McBride said Stephanie had a pleasant and positive attitude when joining the class. “I knew she would be successful because I could see how driven she was to enter the LPN program in the fall,” she said. “Stephanie put in many additional hours of work outside of class so she could enter the STNA class and be on track to reach her goal. It was because of her hard work and determination that she achieved her goal.”
Aspire Coordinator Karen Karnes recommends the Adult Diploma Program as a great option. “The ADP program is a wonderful opportunity for adults to gain two steps on a career pathway with a diploma and an in-demand workforce credential,” she said.
After Stephanie earned her diploma and STNA certification through the WCCC adult medical programs at Greentree Health Science Academy, she worked full time as an STNA while attending nursing school to earn her LPN at Hondros. She said working and going to school full time was extremely challenging and exhausting, but she remained determined to accomplish her dream. Now, she is focused on continuing her climb on the ladder of education to become a nurse anesthetist.
“I feel like I can accomplish anything,” she said. “All of the blood, sweat, and tears I poured into that long year of nursing school was all worth it. There were so many times I felt like I couldn't do it and I was a failure but I did it! I graduated cum laude of my class!”
Working full time, going to school full time, and balancing family commitments is made a bit easier with support from the student’s family. Stephanie said it really helped to have their support and encouragement. Stephanie works for an agency called Intelycare, and is able to help people at several different facilities.
“My family would remind me how strong I am when I felt like I couldn't do it anymore,” she said. “My boyfriend has been my rock through this whole thing, picking up my slack at home, picking me up whenever I was down, and making sure my son was taken care of so I could go to class and study. Everyone would always remind me how proud they were! When I graduated, my son was so proud of me! He brought flowers to my graduation and said ‘you did it mommy!’ with the biggest smile! I believe the example I set for him is that you can accomplish anything if believe in yourself and try hard enough.”
Her advice to someone who didn’t finish high school is that it's never too late to go back and pursue your career and educational goals.
“It is a little scary but it is so worth it,” she said. “Whether you get your diploma or GED you will have a sense of accomplishment and be proud of yourself when you finish! A diploma or GED can be the difference between making $13-$14 an hour and making $17+ an hour. I would do it all over again if I had to. I'm not done yet though. There are a lot of steps between LPN and nurse anesthetist, but I'm ready to continue the climb!”
Census data shows that there are over 1 million adults over age 25 without a high school credential in Ohio. The Ohio Adult Diploma Program provides job training and a new pathway for adults, ages 22 or older, to earn a high school diploma and industry credentials aligned to one of Ohio’s in-demand jobs. Since the ADP began in 2016, thousands have been helped. WCCC was one of the first schools to offer ADP and so far, 52 students have completed with more students close to finishing. If you are interested in earning your diploma and an industry credential at no cost, contact WCCC’s Aspire office
to find out how to enroll.