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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

CMA student breaks cycle of family dysfunction

January 6, 2014
Chelsy Samuels has had a difficult life so far, but she still has worked hard to provide for her little sister.

Twenty year old Chelsy Samuels never had a role model to guide her through difficult decisions or show her how to navigate rocky relationships or strive for something positive in her life. She had to figure all that out on her own. Her mom was lost in a wasteland of drugs and abusive boyfriends and could not be counted on to protect her or her 7-year old half-sister, Kellie, from the trappings of that unstable life. It all changed last March.

“I’d been working double shifts, seven days a week at the coffee house to get my mom and my sister out of that house,” says Chelsy. “It was a party house where gangbangers hung out, and the house was dirty with cockroaches everywhere; not a suitable place for Kellie.”

Things escalated when Chelsy went to her mom’s one day and found her with her face swollen and bruised and, as it turned out, a broken rib. Chelsy did not want Kellie exposed to such violence and was not leaving the house without her. But her mom resisted Kellie leaving; the police were called and Chelsy and her mom began a short-lived custody battle. Her mom’s refusal to take a drug test sealed her parenting fate.

Within weeks Chelsy was awarded full guardianship of Kellie, and they began a life in a shared home with Chelsy’s boyfriend, Jason, and her good friend, John.

Soon, however, Chelsy found herself in the Emergency Room with terrible stomach pain. A mass was discovered on each ovary – one benign and one active and diagnosed as pre-cancerous. She had lost her coffee shop job and was panicked at how she was going to fulfill her responsibilities of providing for Kellie. She did not want her ovaries removed, as she hopes to have her own children one day. She is seeking additional medical advice before any extraordinary or irreversible steps are taken.

“I didn’t want to be doing nothing, so I decided I would get a degree or certification so that even if I did have cancer I’d have something for back-up in my life,” says Chelsy.

She enrolled in SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting certificate program in Modesto and began to organize her life in blocks of program modules and 2-month doctor visits. To her surprise, a few unexpected people lined up to show support. In addition to Kellie, Jason, John and her cousin, Sarah, who enrolled in the CMA program with her, Chelsy found SJVC staff and faculty cheering her on.

Jackie Kohler, Chelsy’s Admissions Advisor and Miss. Baughn, who teaches her lab class, have supported Chelsy’s efforts.

“I could talk with Jackie Kohler about anything, and Miss Baughn works with you and makes you understand,” says Chelsy, who admits she never got along very well with her high school teachers. “They care what’s going on in your personal life. It makes me proud of my decision to be here and showed me I chose the right school.”

“Chelsy’s long-term goal is to work in hospice or pediatrics because she stayed with her grandma while she was in hospice and she realizes that not many people have the heart to help people pass away comfortably,” says Alyssa Bahr, Dean of Students.

Life has changed a lot for Chelsy and Kellie. Chelsy is more confident that her dreams for the future are attainable and that she and Kellie can be free of a life her mother imposed on them. Kellie is blossoming in Chelsy’s care.

“Kellie is the happiest and in the best health she has ever been,” says Chelsy. “All her teachers, everyone sees it. She is making straight As and I’m so proud of her.”

Chelsy cooks for Kellie every day, goes for bike rides in the park with her and puts her to bed at a normal time. “She thanks me for getting her to bed at the right time,” says Chelsy. “She never had that before and it makes me so happy that we can do that.”

Chelsy has less hope for her mom, who calls Kellie every couple of nights. “She still doesn’t sound right,” says Chelsy, who does not think her mom will get better until she hits ‘rock bottom’.

The past holds little power over Chelsy and Kellie, now eight. “We both had to grow up a lot quicker than we expected to,” says Chelsy, who knows they are each others’ greatest source of inspiration.

“She walks up to me and says, ‘I can’t wait to go to college like my Sissy and get a job,’” says Chelsy. “She and I will break the cycle of our drug addict family; I’m going to help her do that.”

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