An ‘Impossible’ Road to a Healthy Career

Norma Highsmith never gave up on reaching her ultimate goal. The 42-year-old knew that if she was to going to overcome her roadblocks to a rewarding career in the medical field, she needed to “expand her horizons” through a college education.

“One day I saw a flyer about South Suburban College’s Allied Health & Careers Programs and I knew this was my opportunity,” said Norma, a resident of Markham, IL. 

That opportunity will culminate this spring when Norma graduates with her Associate’s Degree and Certification as a Radiology Technician. As Norma prepares to join a healthcare workforce in desperate need of skilled Rad Techs, she reflects on her nontraditional journey towards her new career path.

“Before I applied to South Suburban College, I was working as a nurse assistant at different hospitals and nursing homes,” said Norma, who graduated from Manley High School in Chicago and went straight to Lincoln University of Missouri. “Going straight from high school to college was challenging in and of itself, but it taught me many things along the way. Change is never easy, especially when you have additional things to overcome. I have battled a chronic illness for several years, which slowed me down in college. I found it difficult to focus on other things in my life and I let it take over my mind and body.” 

She saw the community college program as a great opportunity for a fresh new start. 

“To many people, it can become a frightening experience to go back to school after some time, but it was also an exciting experience for me to receive the guidance and helpfulness froma caring team of people,” said Norma, who also took advantage of the One Million Degrees (OMD) Signature Scholarship Program offered at SSC. OMD empowers low-income, highly motivated community college students to succeed in school, work, and in life. 

Norma wants to share her story to empower other returning adult students not to be afraid.

“It is important to realize that you are not alone—many students go to college not knowing a lot of information, and it can be frustrating,” said Norma. “There was much that I didn’t know,but I took the time to speak to counselors and instructors and they were very supportive. By just reaching out for a little help, I believe that no one will fail.”

Norma added, “Trust me, I know how hard it can be, I wanted to give up so many times but I’m glad I didn’t. I never focused on my sickness; I focused on pushing myself to become the best that I can be, and I have achieved what others deemed impossible!”

Just as Norma hopes her story will provide inspiration to adult learners, her positivity and smile will undoubtedly inspire her future patients and colleagues.

The South Suburban College Foundation is seeking donations to assist local students and expand healthcare opportunities in the Chicago Southland to battle COVID-19 now and into the future. Scholarship Donations are needed, appreciated and accepted throughout the year. All donations are 100% tax deductible.