Being passed over for new job opportunities, but feeling too old to go back to school. Such was the conflicted crossroads in life for Becky Powel, 48, of Cedarburg, who had already spent a quarter century in the workforce but increasingly felt stuck in place.
If there was any light at the end of this darkening tunnel, Becky admits she had a hard time seeing it through clouds of frustration.
But she was not defeated. At these crossroads, she chose to invest in herself – regardless of the odds and obstacles – and has emerged from Moraine Park Technical College as an inspiration to others: earning a degree in December; becoming a registered nurse and serving as proof that you’re never “too old for school.” In fact, Powell’s work in and out of the classroom has been so remarkable, she has been named Moraine Park’s 2016 Student of the Year.
So what finally convinced her to pursue her degree, despite being out of high school for nearly three decades? Well, we’ll let Becky tell you that – and much more – in her own words:
How would you define yourself?
I grew up Raymond, Maine and and graduated from Gray-New Gloucester High School in 1986. My family was true blue collar. Although I took college preparatory classes, it wasn’t in the cards for me to go to college so I began work at a shoe shop the day after graduation.
My husband, born and raised in Wisconsin, was in the Navy and his ship was stationed in Maine for a period of time. I moved to Wisconsin in February of 1988. We married in August of 1990 and had two daughters, Sarah and Jenna. Sarah graduated from UW-Whitewater the day after my nursing pinning ceremony. Jenna is a freshman at West Bend East High School. My husband has been a machinist at Harley-Davidson for 20 years.
It was an honor to kind of graduate from college with my daughter!
My hobbies include spending time with family and friends, reading, camping, and traveling.
Why Moraine Park?
My sister-in-law graduated from Moraine Park Technical College in May of 2011. I was telling her about my frustrations with taking one class at a time and how envious I was of her career. She suggested MPTC and my reply was, “I am too old to go to school for nursing” to which she answered, “Think about how many more years you have to work.”
There are so many things I appreciate about MPTC. It is small enough to not be intimidating. The teachers and staff are fully invested in helping you succeed. Most of the instructors are also working in the field so they have hands on current experiences to share. Once I became plugged into Student Nursing Association so many opportunities came my way. Beyond that, I began to sit on Student Senate and see other facets of student life, how ideas are brought forth and how decisions are made. Melanie, the Student Life Specialist at West Bend, was so encouraging and always had a smile on her face. Honestly, I haven’t crossed paths with anyone in the building that didn’t return a smile when I shared one with them. Everyone from environmental services, the library staff, administration, support services, security, and Miss Nancy at the door.
Why nursing specifically?
I graduated from the nursing program in December. I have been in the administrative support field of the medical profession for over 25 years. During my father’s illness and eventual passing, I realized that patients do not always advocate for themselves. The nurse quite often becomes the voice of the patient. Around this time I interviewed for a service recovery position that was posted by my employer and was one of two top candidates. Although qualified in every other way, the fact that I didn’t have an education kept me from being offered the internal transfer. It was then I decided to go back to school.
I wasn’t quite sure what path in school I should take so I started at UW-Washington County with prerequisites, taking one class at a time. A year or so later I attended a quarterly update at work in which they spoke about Quality Improvement and Population Health. Around that time another opportunity opened up at work, this time it was Administrative Assistant to the Quality Department. I was offered the position and it opened up a door of interest for me.
What are your career goals?
I want to help change the delivery of healthcare! I have a passion for quality, population health, and preventative care. I could also see myself teaching.
What are your thoughts on being named Student of the Year?
What better way to wrap up a fantastic two years?! When I interviewed for this title they asked me what I was most proud of. My answer? “Being nominated for Student of the Year is pretty amazing.” As I was putting together my presentation for the interview, my realization was that I had already won. I sat in on important discussions, learned from other disciplines, traveled, networked, learned from great faculty, interacted with fabulous support staff, made great friends, and most importantly gained a whole new confidence in myself. Last year I received the Meritorious Service Award. This year I am receiving Who’s Who Among College Students and the incredible honor of Student of the Year!
To qualify for this award, my nominator (Mary Krieger) had to see the following things in me:
- Communicate Clearly
- Act Responsibly
- Work Productively
- Think Critically and Creatively
- Adapt to Change, Demonstrate Integrity and Work Cooperatively.
- Excels both in and outside the classroom
- Serves as a role model to others and is helpful to fellow students—for this I am MOST proud
This means I accomplished what I set out to do; I made the most of my educational experience at Moraine Park.
Want to start your own journey towards a degree, find out all the exciting options we offer at morainepark.edu/programs.