Nursing Student Says Never Let your Dreams Die
From an early age, Shelonda Lindo wanted to be a nurse.
“When I was eight years old, my aunt used to call me her little nurse. I was always very nurturing, I loved babies, and I was always trying to take care of somebody. I feel like it was always in me from the beginning,” she says.
But the journey in life sometimes takes a detour.
A dream deferred
Shelonda was pregnant at 18 and didn’t finish high school. She had her second child at age 21. She eventually moved with her girls from New Jersey to Florida to be closer to her grandparents and mom. She got married and had two more children.
Her dream of working in the medical field kept calling to her, so she took a clerical job at a dermatology office that specialized in skin cancer and worked her way up to office manager.
She had dreams of going to nursing school, but her husband was not receptive to that idea. He struggled with substance abuse, which took a toll on their marriage—and was traumatic for Shelonda and her children. Marriage was a sacred vow to Shelonda, and she did everything she could to make things work with her husband.
“My main focus at that point was working and creating a stable environment for my kids,” Shelonda says.
When they finally separated, she found herself a single mother again, and the sole provider for her family. While she loved her job at the clinic, Shelonda knew she needed more.
A leap of faith
It was now or never. Shelonda decided to quit her job and go to nursing school full time. “With my strong faith in God, I believed that if I put in the work, I would find a way to succeed,” she said.
The first hurdle was completing her GED®. She has distinct memories of sitting in the parking lot after each test, waiting for the results. Each time, she couldn’t believe her eyes—she passed!
“When I think of how crippling fear can be. There were so many years where I could have done this, but I let fear and anxiety get in the way,” she says. “We’ll never know what we can do if we don’t try. The unfortunate result of the breakdown of my marriage is that I lost a lot of confidence in myself. I didn’t feel smart. I didn’t feel that I could do it.”
Her confidence boosted by her GED® results, Shelonda immediately applied for nursing school.
“I’ll never forget when I got that letter in the mail that I was accepted into the LPN program. I called my mom and literally cried on the phone. I was so excited,” says Shelonda.
The coursework wasn’t easy, and she faced a steep learning curve as a nontraditional student.
“I had to learn how to study. There was so much information, and it was so fast-paced. But ultimately, I ended up graduating with the highest GPA in my class,” Shelonda says. “I had a lot of family come in from out of town for graduation, and to see the look on everyone’s faces—it was like ‘you are now realizing what you are capable of, but we always knew.’”
Responding to her calling
After becoming a licensed practical nurse, Shelonda found herself one step closer to her dream of being a registered nurse (RN).
“My goal was always to become a registered nurse. I became an LPN first so I could earn a decent living and maintain my household as a single mom while pursuing that degree,” she says.
But then life took another detour. Just months into Shelonda’s first job as a licensed practical nurse, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Patients were frantic, worried they would die. There were so many unknowns early in the pandemic.
“It was something out of this world. To experience that as a new nurse was a lot to take in,” she says.
Shelonda saw the emotional toll on patients and families alike. Her two youngest were doing school virtually. She also welcomed her first granddaughter, Journey, who was born during the pandemic in May 2020.
As the pandemic eased up, Shelonda renewed her quest to become an RN. She felt the clock ticking.
“I don’t feel old, but I’m not fresh out of high school pursuing this degree. I wanted to get into a program with a faster track,” she says.
Shelonda looked at many schools but was attracted to Rasmussen’s accelerated Professional Nursing (ADN/RN) program.
Another deciding factor for Shelonda was hearing from three nurses she worked with in labor and delivery at Sarasota Memorial who said great things about the program.
She loved her first in-person class with Lisa Dait, part of the adjunct nursing faculty.
“She’s absolutely amazing. She teaches with such passion and keeps the class very engaged. She pours everything into us to make us good nurses,” Shelonda says.
Shelonda also likes the online library resources, such as tutorials on how to use APA Style® in writing. She appreciates having access to tutors who can help review papers.
“I feel like Rasmussen has set up a system that is designed for their students to succeed,” she says.
Shelonda initially worried that she might be the oldest in her classes but found there were students older than her.
“I see people older than me and they’re accomplishing amazing goals. I feel like it’s never too late.”
Closing the health disparity gap
When she achieves her RN license, Shelonda wants to focus on maternal health and either stay in labor and delivery or work in neonatal health like a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
“I work in labor and delivery now and watch the RN’s role in the process. You’re not just responsible for one life, but two or three or more, depending on whether the patient is carrying multiples. The labor could be going just fine, but things could change in a split second, and you have someone’s life in the balance,” Shelonda says.
The work is daunting, but important, to Shelonda. She’s seen health disparities firsthand and witnessed Black women who have lost their lives giving birth.
“As a Black woman, I truly believe in equality. I would treat every patient with the same respect, integrity and quality of care. But addressing those health disparities has been a big draw for me.”
Advice for prospective students
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what your circumstances are, I’m a firm believer that you should never let your dreams die,” says Shelonda.
As a private person, it’s difficult for Shelonda to talk about the struggles she’s faced. But she wants to share her story so other people who are struggling can see that if she did it, they can too.
She also likes to channel Oprah’s advice: "You are responsible for your life, and if you’re sitting around waiting on somebody to save you, to fix you, to even help you, you are wasting your time. Because only you have the power to take responsibility to move your life forward."
“It’s hard sometimes to break out of things you’ve experienced when you’ve been depressed and oppressed by certain situations,” Shelonda says. “But you have to will yourself out, even just by taking baby steps. Once you start taking those steps, doors will start opening for you that will ultimately lead you to where you want to go.”
If prospective students are worried about paying for school, Shelonda suggests getting online and applying for any scholarships that fit your eligibility. That’s how she secured the NCJW Scholarship for Non-Traditional Students, awarded by the National Council of Jewish Women Sarasota-Manatee Section, which covers her tuition at Rasmussen.
Shelonda looks forward to graduating in spring 2023 and finally living the dream of that eight-year-old “little nurse.”
“Either we exist, or we’re living. I want to live. I want to be able to look back on my life and say that I did the thing I was meant to do,” says Shelonda. “I want to be able to leave a legacy for my children and for their children. To inspire them to say ‘This is how my mom was, this is how my grandmother was. She never gave up.’”
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