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How Victoria College has changed my life

By BY RHONDA RAWLINS
May 19, 2012 at 12:19 a.m.

Rhonda Rawlins

The Victoria Advocate will be publishing student essays from The Victoria College "What's Your Story?" scholarship competition during the next few weeks. Students were asked to write an essay answering the question, "How has The Victoria College changed your life?" Winners of the contest, who will receive a $1,000 scholarship funded by the Victoria College Foundation, will have their essays published last. We welcome letters and columns from all students.

My first major encounter with Victoria College was taking pre-requisite courses to meet the entry requirements for the Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) program. Since my daughter, at the age of three, suffered from a neurological disorder, I have wanted to pursue a career in a healthcare profession. After I graduated from high school, I tried a career in customer service while going to school for early childhood education. While going to school, I made a career change and began working for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). I remained with TDCJ for seven years before I moved to Victoria and accepted a job at a residential treatment center, where I have been for the past seven years. Although I have enjoyed my experiences, I never truly found my niche. It was while participating in my daughter's rehabilitation process that I became interested in physical therapy. When Victoria College announced they were going to offer the PTA program, I became focused and dedicated to achieving a goal I never thought was possible.

Victoria College offering the PTA program and providing an excellent program director started the change in my life. A profession I thought was forever beyond my reach was suddenly attainable right here in Victoria. I submitted my application in May 2011, and the following month I received my acceptance letter. It was an amazing feeling knowing that only 16 applicants were chosen for the class of 2013 and I was one of them. My journey to change had begun!

During the orientation session prior to the start of school, students and their guests were informed that working while in the program, even part-time, would take its toll on the student and their grades. I had recently changed my work status from full time to part-time, so I believed that I could focus on school, have the needed time to study and still have time for my significant other and my two amazing girls, ages two and eight. Then, right before school officially started, I found myself a single mother, alone with no support system, emotionally or financially. I returned to full time status at work in order to provide for my family and to maintain health insurance for my daughter, who had medical special needs. Due to the program being so rigorous academically, I needed to work only part-time. When I sought financial assistance in order to work part-time, I was told I made too much money. I was informed that I would have to work part-time for one month before I would be considered for any type of assistance. I could not take that chance until after the end of the year, when I could fall back on my income tax return if anything was to happen concerning my daughter's health. This forced me to remain working full-time while taking 14 credit hours my first semester. In addition, I had to sacrifice time with my children.

Needless to say, my grades began to suffer. I was placed on probation because my grades were below passing. I had already made so many sacrifices; I could not let myself fail out of the program. I met with the program director, Mrs. Crandall, and together we developed a plan for me to improve my grades. I started attending weekly tutoring sessions with a program instructor and utilizing the tutoring center, as well as working with small study groups. Mrs. Crandall assigned two mentors from the second-year students from whom I could seek assistance when needed and she conducted some research for scholarship opportunities. With Mrs. Crandall's guidance, tutoring, student mentors and my determination, I was able to raise my grades to all B's.

The Victoria College PTA program is allowing me to change and improve my life, both for me and my two girls. Without the addition of this program to the Victoria College curriculum, I would still be on a wandering path to find my true passion. Although I have had, and am having to make sacrifices, they are more than worth it to be part of such a wonderful and challenging program. I am proud to say that I am more than halfway done with my second of four semesters for the PTA program and I am looking forward to what the next year has to bring.

Rhonda Rawlins is entering her second year of VC's Physical Therapist Assistant Program.

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