Medical Office Administration graduate pushes through personal struggles to help others find their way
As a Community Engagement Manager for The Open Door, Elizabeth Beebee helps others find their way through dark experiences toward greater strength, understanding and hope. She develops and facilitates community training for mental health professionals and the general population on the issue of human trafficking.
The Associate’s degree she earned in SJVC’s Medical Office Administration program, her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a Master’s degree in process and the community outreach she performs in her current position make hers a well-informed voice of knowledge and compassion. It’s depth of understanding comes from her own experience as a former sex worker.
Elizabeth has spent the last dozen years figuring out and sharing how to push through victimhood and into a life of purposeful, fulfilling design; learning and suggesting what to keep and what to leave behind.
How did you find yourself involved in the sex trafficking business?
I’d lost my job because I was sexually harassed at work, there was the desperation of having to provide as a single parent and the coercion of a friend that brought me over to that work. In my mid 20s I made the decision to leave that lifestyle and enroll in school to give me purpose. I’m a firm believer that that brief part of my life is my story to share to help others.
How did you choose SJVC’s Medical Office Administration (MOA) Associate’s degree program?
I didn’t want to deal with community colleges, the wait list and not having accesses to all the classes I needed. A lot of classes were full so you’re just taking random classes you don’t need and paying for them. SJVC offered an opportunity to complete all the classes I needed, including general education credits – and give me a head start of training in a career I could work in.
The programs have the classes laid out for you, so you know what to expect. And there are all of the supportive services if you need it. It’s a great program for people who are struggling with any type of trauma or adverse experience, because of the structure. There are no surprises.
How did you handle the pressures of school?
It was a rocky transition with instructors, and I was dealing with the process of trying to find myself outside the situation I’d just come from. And dealing with the stressors of school, I kind of acted out. I was learning to trust myself with decisions I was making and finding a way to trust people around me.
Your biggest struggle is the person who is reflecting back at you in the mirror – and that is yourself. Your mindset has a huge influence on the outcome of things. That’s how life is: you get what you get and work with it.
What kind of support did you have at school and at home?
Tammy Livingston is a former faculty member (at SJVC) who taught psychology, English and Gen Ed classes. When people know you’re going through things, they react in one of two ways: they either coddle you or put you in a position to be accountable for your past and present. She did that for me. She held me accountable for the fact that I’m here at school and doing this now. ‘Let’s just get through this,’ she’d tell me. She brought me to focus. Tammy was able to find that balance between nurturing and needed structure.
I had had been living with my grandma (Carroll), and between my grandma, aunt and other family members, was lucky enough to have a support system around me to keep me as focused as possible. However, my daughter (Rebecca) was my leading motivator that helped me to push through.
When I think about being nurtured, I was uncomfortable with it. Because the reality is, in the work field most employers are not going to give you that. I’ve always been drawn to people who are very direct in their way of working with me.
What was your inspiration to keep pushing to complete your program?
My daughter was around five when I started school, so it was a big thing for me. When I went to school she was in school. Rebecca thinks it’s fun that we’re both in school – to this day. Research shows that your kids are more likely to complete higher education if their parents have. I want that for her.
And I knew I had done things that were disappointing for my grandma, so graduating with my Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees and seeing her be so proud was extremely important to me. She was always my biggest cheerleader.
What was your favorite moment in your education experience at SJVC?
The biggest moment for me was graduation (2014) and having the realization that I did it, that I completed the goal I set out for myself. And having my grandma see that moment and seeing how proud she was; it was very momentous and meaningful for me. She passed away two years ago at 85.
How do you apply all you have learned in your education and life toward a successful career?
The biggest part of my job right now is to develop and facilitate educational training and presentations on the issue of human trafficking, for law enforcement, social services professionals and community members. While I usually get to do this in-person, due to Covid-19, I am limited to mostly virtual meetings.
I’m not ashamed of my experiences and what I’ve gone through, as I believe they had to happen for me to be where I am at now. My goal, when I complete my marriage and family therapy licensure, is to eventually provide pro-bono therapeutic services to victims of trauma and sex trafficking.
What advice would you give those who doubt they are college material or that they can complete a career program they start?
I get that school may seem daunting, but if you break it down and take it a moment at a time, it won’t seem so overwhelming. Remind yourself: Just get through that class; just get through this hour. Just be in this moment.
And always remember your ‘why’. Why did you start the program? Own it.
What are the most important aspects of your personal and professional growth?
It’s the feeling of being the mother I want to be for my daughter; emulating women whose example she might follow. It’s practicing what I preach; being who I believe other girls can be, as well.
Though I strive for it, I understand that perfection is not attainable. There’s always room for improvement and more work to be done. But, at some point, what you’ve done has to be enough.
My husband, Nicholas, tells me, ‘You do all these amazing things and continue to reach your goals, but I wonder when you are going to feel that it is enough.
I haven’t come to that point yet, and I’ll keep fighting for girls like me until I do.
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.