Despite barriers Marine Corps veteran Samantha Hartman was determined to complete LCCC’s rigorous sonography program

Samantha Hartman left for Marine Corps boot camp one hour after her 2001 high school graduation, still wearing her cap and gown. The oldest of five was raised by her single mother and says the expense of college wasn’t practical at the time. 

“It was either get a job and never experience life, or join the military and see everything,” she says. 

Hartman says her three-month training in Parris Island, South Carolina was a culture shock.  

“The first 10 days, it was like walking around with two left feet; I didn’t know right from left. It was almost controlled chaos,” Harman says.  

Recalling a moment in time when she felt weakened, Hartman wondered if she made the right choice. But she was determined to finish what she started then, and that perseverance remained.

Going through the ranks

Just as she hoped, Hartman’s more than a decade spent in the Marine Corps took her around the world. Trained in field radio, satellite and communications, Hartman also spent time at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina, managing classified materials. She was deployed three times, once to Afghanistan and twice to Iraq. Hartman says her last 14-month deployment to Iraq was the most difficult. 

“It was hard emotionally and mentally,” Hartman says. “You’re missing all the holidays. It was almost like time stopped when you left, even though your family was carrying on.” 

After returning to the U.S. in 2008, Hartman reenlisted and became a Combat Instructor at the School of Infantry in North Carolina. There she spent four years training new recruits and became the mentor she never had. She felt a special pull to help other female recruits, who make up just 9% of Marines. 

“I loved it, I liked having an impact on the junior Marines,” Hartman says, “I didn’t have that guidance as I was going through the ranks. There aren’t a lot of female Marines, so I really didn’t have anyone to look up to.” 

Focusing on family and a new future

In 2014, Hartman decided it was time to end her military career. 

“My dad got sick, and it was time for me to be with my family. That’s why I hung my hat up,” she says. 

Hartman’s instinct to focus on family was well founded. One year later, her father passed away from complications with diabetes. And six months after that her mother passed away from cervical cancer. 

“I’m glad I listened to that voice saying it was time to go, otherwise I would have had regrets,” she says. 

When she was ready, Hartman began thinking about the next chapter of her life. But the Marine veteran felt like she was starting from scratch and says finding a job she enjoyed was harder than she expected.
“I had all the experiences in the world, but I didn’t have a college degree,” she says.  

That’s when Hartman, who was a new mother and working for the Transportation Security Administration at the time, began looking into Lorain County Community College’s Associate of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography program.   

“Everyone I talked to said LCCC was the best,” Hartman says. “I needed something that worked around my job and my child. And I wanted smaller classes, better instruction and better resources.”

Hartman contacted LCCC’s Veteran and Military Service Members Center, where she met career and academic advisor, Esperanza  Correa, who guided Hartman through application and admissions processes. Three years after leaving the Marine, Hartman began completing pre-requisites for LCCC’s sonography program. 

Determined to persevere

As if the rigor of LCCC’s sonography program wasn’t enough, the COVID-19 related government shut down placed even more strain on Hartman and her studies.  

“I went a month and a half without a paycheck,” she says. “I said if I had to choose between putting gas in my car to come to class, or putting food on the table for my daughter, I would choose food.”  

In addition to leaning on her local Veterans Affairs office, Hartman found support through LCCC’s Advocacy and Resource Center, which helps students succeed in the classroom by removing barriers outside the classroom. With gas cards covering the expense of her commute, Hartman could focus on the increasing classroom workload as she moved through the program.  

Every semester she took on 12 to 14 credit hours and toward the end, topped off her schedule with clinical experience. Hartman says any time she felt like it was too much, Correa was there to remind her what she was capable of. 

“Espy was always calling and sending emails encouraging me, telling me, ‘You got this; you can do this,’ and I needed that,” she recalls.  

Correa’s inspiration increased when Hartman learned she had breast cancer, and – just before surgery to remove the cancer – that she was pregnant with her second child. Hartman’s instructors asked if she wanted to take a semester off. But as always, she was determined to finish.  

Surrounded by support, Hartman pushed through, and earned her degree in 2021. She’s also living cancer free. And, because Correa’s gentle prodding doesn’t always end with graduation, Hartman plans to continue her education through LCCC’s University Partnership.   

But for now, she’s taking a moment to be with her two daughters, and to appreciate all she’s been through and admire all she’s accomplished. 

“It was a rough road; it was hard,” she says. “But I finished and I’m proud.” 

Marine Corps veteran Samantha Hartman was determined to complete her journey through LCCC’s sonography program despite barriers