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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

A long way from there…to here

October 28, 2013
Despite crises, Sandy resolved to make for herself a better life through education.

Sandy Clute will be the first to tell you that not graduating high school until she was twenty-one was all on her. When she was a sophomore and not doing well with the academic constraints of the Akron, Ohio public school system, she opted to become an independent student enrolled in an online home-school program. But, the freedom of self-study proved too tempting.

“I just didn’t put enough time into it,” says Sandy, who also held down a string of jobs along the way.

By the time Sandy was eighteen she had worked in everything from fast-food and factories to home health care and an assisted living facility. She was floating and wasn’t sure where she would land. Finally, she heard a voice that would snap her out of it.

The Assistant Principal of her old high school had come to work for the same independent study school she was in her 5th year of attending. “Coach”, as he was known, gave her the push she needed to finally finish graduation requirements. “Sandy, you can do this; I know you can,” he encouraged. “If you don’t do it now, you never will.”

“I needed 4-units to graduate with my class and had 2-weeks to do it,” says Sandy. She told herself, “Sandy, you’ve been playing for so long that you’re about to fail at what you’ve been doing all your life. It was crunch time.”

Sandy pulled through and in June, 2009, at the age of twenty-one she graduated with her class of seventy-two.

In July, 2009 Sandy realized she was pregnant. She and her boyfriend had broken up the month before.

“That was a strong smack in the face,” she says. “You have somebody you’re responsible for now, so do what you need to do,” she told herself.

Sandy started working full-time for a temporary agency and life went forward. Her daughter, Serenity, was born and Sandy focused on providing for the two of them as well as she could.

Serenity had a series of health scares from age one until a few months after she turned two. First, a serious viral infection put her in the hospital, then at two-years old she struggled to drink liquids and suffered from symptoms of asthma, while sleep apnea threatened her at night. Thankfully, surgery to remove her tonsils and adenoids resolved those problems. A few months after turning two, a serious dog bite that required almost 80-stitches on her face put her in the hospital for a week when the wound became infected “My bubble child,” says Sandy.

The health of her daughter restored, Sandy enrolled in SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting certificate program, Online. She knew two things for sure: education was the key to providing a better life for Serenity, and online was the way for her to work and take care of her daughter while she got it.

The CMA program got off to a great start for Sandy.

Sandy was just settling in when the sudden loss of family members brought her progress to a halt. She began to flounder. Just two months after starting her program, Sandy was terminated.

It took two months for Sandy to get into a place where she could give the kind of attention to her education that it and she deserved. She petitioned SJVC to allow her to come back and was accepted.

“My first week back Alyssa Perry (Dean of Student Services) called to introduce herself and to tell me that her door was always open,” says Sandy. “I was blown away.”

“Sandy’s academics were suffering at the beginning of her program,” says Pamela Soto-Gonzalez, instructor. “After being terminated, she came back to school as the dedicated, motivated student I knew she could be. She is now on the Dean’s List and I feel her situation is a perfect example of how students can get into gear and turn it all around for themselves.”

Another person giving her encouragement and support is her fiancé, Ted, whom she plans to marry next June, and who “keeps me steady”, she says.

Scheduled to graduate at the end of October, Sandy’s focus is now a laser beam on the future.

“I have to make sure that I do my best so that when my daughter gets older, is about to go to college and is facing difficulties, she will have faith in herself because she saw that I could do it.”

Sandy’s dream to become a Registered Nurse one day will make her point even stronger.


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