In preparation for her last anatomy & physiology II test, Alexandra Lundahl studies a nephron model in the New Initiatives Program study room at the St. Petersburg College Caruth Health Education Center campus in Pinellas Park. NIP offers pre-health and health students numerous resources such as free tutoring and the opportunity to get extra hands-on time with the models and slides.
As an admittedly nerdy child, I always couldn’t wait for back-to-school time. I’d eagerly await the letter in elementary and middle school that announced who I would have for teachers the following year and then would call all my friends to see if we’d be in the same classes.
A new school year meant new school supplies with crisp, blank notebooks just waiting to be filled with new knowledge and the occasional doodle. It meant new teachers, new challenges, new friends and reuniting with old friends.
By the time I’d reached my senior year of college at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, I admit I was definitely ready to grab my B.A. degree and be done with it all, eager to finally start “real life.”
Never did I think I’d have another first day of school.
Last summer, having just turned 30, I made the scary decision to go back to school. And not for another writing related field that I knew would play right into my talents and skills. No, I decided to go back for nursing.
That meant I finally had to face those scary math and science classes that so many of us English majors gleefully never had to take. I had gladly avoided math classes since junior year of high school back in 2000-2001. Thus, I spent a month or two cramming several years of middle- and high-school math back into my head so I could thankfully test out of intermediate algebra, which allowed me to jump into statistics.
A week before my first semester started last January, I walked around the empty St. Petersburg College Gibbs campus to locate my classes. All of a sudden I was that eager kid again, excited – and a little nervous – to go back to school again. There’s something familiar and welcoming about a college campus, from walking the tree-filled grounds to the smell of the buildings. I was ready. Bring it on.
I love being part of the SPC community, and there are so many resources and opportunities to help students succeed as well as making it possible to go to school while still working full-time.
Unlike my traditional College Round 1 where everyone was right out of high school and you could only take classes during the day, at SPC, the average student is 28 years old and my classmates can range from high school dual-enrolled students and new high school grads to single parents finishing their degree and people in their 50s coming back for a second or third career. I love this diversity and the maturity that it brings.
It’s clear that the faculty and staff want their students to succeed, and therefore there are numerous programs to take advantage of, such as free tutoring centers, and a science study lab where you can look at models and microscope slides. There is the New Initiatives Program for pre-health students that offer free, weekly review sessions, additional access to free tutors, and many other resources. There is also the Women on the Way program that helps women of all ages and backgrounds resources to succeed, from leadership skills or essential toiletries to scholarships and volunteer opportunities.
If you want to succeed, you can.
Oh, make no mistake – you still have to work for it. Even the prerequisites to get into the nursing program are hard. Well over half of my Anatomy & Physiology I lab dropped the course because they were failing.
Those of us who made it to A&P II – especially those of us crazy enough to take it during the intense summer session – have learned critical study skills and how much time and effort is required to succeed.
Top grades are critical for competitive programs like nursing, where hundreds apply but only 96 applicants get in each spring and fall.
As crazy as my life has become, devoting all my time to school and work, I have even more respect for my classmates who are doing all of this while raising children as well.
They prove that there are no excuses. Sure, it’ll be hard, but walking across that stage and achieving your career goals makes it all worth it.
As scary as it was for me to step away from my known strengths and dive into the unknown, I am so proud that I have proven wrong the “I can’t” voice in my head. The only “can’t” remaining is the eager chorus of “I can’t wait to become a nurse and to help people get well.”
Alexandra Lundahl is the editor of the Clearwater Beacon newspaper and has nearly completed her nursing prerequisites at St. Petersburg College. She plans on earning her BSN degree and later go on to become a nurse practitioner.