Lyric Jackson and Jackie Jeter each pause reflectively for a few moments, choosing their words carefully when asked to describe their experiences as licensed practical nursing students at Tri-County Technical College’s Easley Campus.
“In one word, extraordinary,” said Jeter, 39, a single parent of four children and a full-time student who maintains college coursework and clinicals at Clemson Downs.
“Meaningful,” said Jackson, 25, also a full-time student, mother of a two-year-old daughter and a 2017 University of South Carolina graduate. It was just a year into her job as a property manager for an apartment complex when she realized nursing was her calling and she enrolled at Tri-County in 2019 to pursue her dream. “At TCTC we have people in our corner who help us get to where we need to go. Even on your worst day, you still want to do your best,” said Jackson.
“Every instructor has been an example for me. I see them as role models. They saw the potential in me, even when I didn’t,” added Jeter.
Both will transition into the associate degree nursing (RN) program after earning a licensed practical nursing degree. Jackson will graduate this summer and Jeter will follow in December. “The associate degree in nursing is not my end goal, but my next goal,” said Jeter, who plans to first work in a hospital OR or ER with the overall goal to become a nurse practitioner in oncology as a missionary.
Jackson wants to pursue a career in a neurology unit after getting her RN degree and study to become a nurse anesthetist.
Both are dedicated to making a difference by pursuing their passion.
“I’ve wanted to be a pediatrician since I was nine years old,” said Jeter. She said her life has been filled with disappointment, loss and regret. Every time she tried to get ahead – in her education, in her jobs and in her personal life, she says “life happened.”
Despite these setbacks that sidetracked plans and led to decades of negative thoughts, she never lost sight of a dream she has had to be a nurse. Education was always the end goal - for her and her children.
She tried several times, since earning her GED in 2001, to work toward a college degree at Tri-County but had to withdraw because of attendance issues related to the lack of a babysitter, transportation, you name it.
After returning from a mission trip to Uganda several years ago, she reassessed things. “I vowed to do things 110 percent. I reminded myself that the attitude you go in with is the attitude you go out with. I’ve had setbacks over the years, but now I am set up for my next goal,” she said.
Jackson began college at USC Columbia after graduating from Abbeville High in 2014. She received a degree in retail management after just three years and worked as a property manager for an apartment complex but quickly realized she wanted a different path. “I wanted to make a difference every day. I don’t regret earning my bachelor’s degree because the management classes will help me when I become a nurse,” she said.
“I always wanted to be a nurse but I was scared,” she said. “This is the happiest I’ve been. I found my calling in health care.”
Both credit instructors, as well as support staff, for being a huge part of their success.
“All have been an example for me. I feel comfortable with them, and they see potential in me. Ms. Lisa Finley (LPN instructor) is a big part of that. She’s passionate about her work. She’s there for the success of her students. She wants the best for us so she goes above and beyond,” said Jeter.
Jackson said she found the atmosphere at the Easley Campus very welcoming. “I have a personal relationship with instructors. They know my name. They actually care and work with you to reach your goals. It’s a true support system,” she said.
“Ms. Finley is amazing. Our first semester she told us if we needed extra help, she would be there, even outside of office hours. She stuck to her word and helped me find a tutor, support resources, notes from class. She is always available by e-mail, even at night. She cares about our success,” Jackson said.
Jackson said it’s easier to learn at a smaller community campus. “There are less distractions. The Easley Campus is small and we know everybody.”
“The second time around in college, I’m doing it right,” Jackson said, adding that she is attending debt free, thanks to lottery tuition assistance and the LIFE scholarship.
So is Jeter who, in addition to lottery tuition assistance, received CARES Act and GEER funds during the pandemic.
“Receiving a scholarship has allowed me not to be defined by my hardships, and has allowed me to keep pursuing my dreams,” said Jeter
“Everyone has said, don’t give up, I believe in you. Focus on your path. There are so many role models,” said Jeter. “When I graduate I will take the time to personally thank those who never gave up on me – and challenged me every step of the way,” she said.
Jackson said her time in the LPN program is “the hardest I’ve ever worked but it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in class. When I put my uniform on, I’m a different person. This is where I’m supposed to be,” she said.