Riley Caldwell, 18, wants to be a nurse like her mom, Gerry, and Lorain County Community College is helping her make the dream possible. And with an LCCC scholarship, the college is making that goal easier to achieve for her than it was for her mother, who worked during the day and attended classes at night.
Caldwell, a graduate of Wellington High School, says her mother’s determination inspired her career path.
“I admire her compassion for her patients and the hard work she does, and I want to be a part of that,” Caldwell says. “I was 10 when she went back to school for her LPN, and she missed lots of family events because she was so busy with it. It was really stressful for her.”
Caldwell got a head start on achieving her goal while in high school, earning an associate of science degree from LCCC at the Wellington Center, through the College Credit Plus program. The program allows high school students to take LCCC courses at no cost and offers them the opportunity to graduate from high school with both a diploma and a two-year degree.
Caldwell plans to continue her studies and earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing through LCCC’s University Partnership program. She will earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Western Governor’s University in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the partnership program allowing her to do so by traveling no further than LCCC’s Elyria campus.
Caldwell is earning her bachelor’s through the college because “I know LCCC has a really good nursing program, and they have given me the best scholarship opportunities,” she says. “I couldn’t imagine getting my nursing degree anywhere else. Everyone has been so helpful and kind, and I wanted to go here for another two years.”
Get an early start by taking college classes in high school
While in high school, Caldwell began her associate degree courses at LCCC’s Wellington Center, near her home. The center has just six classrooms and a few hundred students, making it the ideal place to start or continue an education and receive individualized attention.
Caldwell credits Eddie Henson, her academic adviser at the Wellington Center, for helping steer her on the right path.
“He provided a course completion plan and answered the many, many questions I had along the way,” she says.
Henson was impressed with Caldwell from the first time he met her and saw many traits in her that he knew would lead to success in the nursing field — even at such a young age.
“Riley had a great sense of humor and a bright smile that made her a joy to be around,” Henson said. “But she was also serious about her work. Every enrollment period, Riley was prepared to schedule classes with all of the proper paperwork and her course selections thoroughly researched. She was attentive to detail and had a strong work ethic.”
The science classes Caldwell researched and chose to take at LCCC — from biology to chemistry to anatomy — helped confirm that nursing was the right career choice. “I loved them all,” she said.
And thanks to her stellar performance in high school, Caldwell was awarded an LCCC Trustee’s Scholarship, which covers tuition and fees. The scholarship is awarded to students who have a 3.7 high school GPA or better at the end of the sixth semester of their high school grading period and covers between 60 and 72 credit hours of tuition over two consecutive years.
Caldwell was eager to get started, and the summer following high school graduation, she took advantage of the scholarship, which not only provided money for tuition but also covered books and provided vouchers for the cafeteria. She also took a class, Power UP, which helped her hone her leadership skills.
Because she wasn’t yet 18 after graduation, she couldn’t immediately apply to the nursing program. She instead applied over the summer and was admitted for the spring semester, filling her fall semester with humanities and nursing prerequisites.
Caldwell is now making her way through the nursing program and already proving to be “wise beyond her years,” as Nancy L. Urrutia, EdD, MSN, RN, CNE, an assistant professor at LCCC has said.
Part of that insight comes from her early experience outside the classroom. Although she has just begun her nursing courses, Caldwell is already doing clinicals at Avon Oaks Caring Community.
“Riley has tremendous insight into caring for those who are ill,” Urrutia said. “She is caring and intuitively reasons patient care beyond the physical complaint, really connecting with patients’ emotional and psychosocial needs.”
Caldwell is also working 10 hours a week as a secretary at a chiropractor’s office in Wellington, sharpening her communication, organization and project management skills.
With everything she’s experienced already, Caldwell still looks to her mother as her greatest example. She watched her mother work hard to get through school and land a great job as an LPN in an oral surgeon’s office. Caldwell looks forward to a similar future for herself.
As she works toward that future, Caldwell is quick to recommend LCCC to those interested in pursuing a similar path. Last spring and summer, she was one of several students featured in an advertising campaign for LCCC and the College Plus Program, a campaign that featured her face on billboards.
Caldwell said driving around Wellington and seeing her face looking back at her made her smile. It was an inspiring message — Riley got her associate degree while in high school, and you can, too. Because of that she’s eager to promote the college, which, she said, “so easily allowed me to pursue my dreams.”