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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Real life crises almost kept student from career dream – Grad Q&A with Dominique Williams

August 16, 2022

Dominique Williams was only in her Medical Office Administration (MOA) program on the SJVC Modesto campus a few months when she came seriously close to dropping out. She had already switched to online studies because she and husband, Manuel, had three children at home and another on the way. She was also working as a Home Health Aid for several at-home patients. Two months before giving birth to their son, Noah, Dominique gathered her resolve and returned to the classroom to better focus on her studies.

But just a couple of months later, with just six months left to complete her MOA program, Dominique had an emergency C-section and Noah was placed in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). He was not able to breathe on his own.

Visions of school, graduation, and a career she was excited to enter, were swept from her mind.


What was your state-of-mind during this super stressful time?

I was definitely ready to drop out. I really wanted to complete my schooling but, of course, my child was more important than that. My son was not eating or breathing on his own and all of my attention went to him. The first week we didn’t think he would make it out of the hospital.


How did you handle the demands of school on top of this emergency?

I didn’t even care anymore. That was the first time I was put on Academic Warning. My grades were dropping, and I was given 2-3 months to improve grades or there would be an automatic termination.

I honestly knew it would be a struggle; I had children who were young. But I was overwhelmed from the very beginning. I hadn’t thought about all the homework I would get.

It was almost impossible because I was still working as a Home Health Aide, too, jumping from different facilities and going to patients’ homes to take care of them.


What made you stick it out?

I told myself, ‘You’re putting so much money into these classes that you’re not taking, and a lot of people get in debt and don’t even finish school.’ That was not going to be me.

Dean (of Student Services) Natalia Dominguez helped me with my downfalls, with extensions for extra time and private tutor contacts when I got behind on my grades. It was hard to work around the tutoring, but getting extra time to get assignments done made a big difference.

I had a whole team of people helping me. And the Dean reached out to new instructors to fill them in, and they gave me that same support. With a step-by-step plan and instructor support I was always able to get through each and every assignment.

During this time my biggest supporters were my husband, Manuel, instructor Mary Aguilar, Dean Natalia and Career Services Advisor, Victoria Krayna. All are truly a blessing.


What made you want this so very much?

I was pregnant with my daughter just shy of my 19th birthday and had to drop out of high school my senior year. I got my diploma just before I turned 24 doing night classes. Then, I decided I wanted to go back to school and get a degree. I wanted to give my children a parent with a career.


Why did you choose SJVC?

I found SJVC online. I always look at the ratings and inside the home profile it tells you about students who have graduated, and I was reading their little, short stories. I called SJVC and we went over financial aid, what they had to offer and how long it would take.


What was something you did not expect to get during your MOA program?

I would say I didn’t expect to get help from Victoria, my Career Services Advisor. She has been helping me with this process since I first started school two years ago. She’s checking on me, keeping up with my grades; she is like an online school counselor.

And for future job search, we will dust off the resume together. I feel that support under me.


What is your first post-MOA program position like?

I am in Intake Administration for SEVG in Arizona. My husband’s stepmom, Marina, has a job here and she reached out to their Human Resources and told them I was completing my program. We did two phone interviews and we moved there right after I finished the program.

I work in the call center; answer phones, register new patients, match their insurance with our network or providers and schedule different procedures in various specialties.

I definitely see a major growth in this company. Eventually I would like to move up, maybe direct patient care as a Physician Assistant. I think I’m good here.


Are you pleased with your accomplishments?

I feel like I went through so much the past two years. I feel like I deserve even better and know I can get better. This is just the beginning for me.

You feel like you’re climbing a mountain and can’t do it. But now you can look at the future and see it more clearly and how very much you want it.  When I was in school, I didn’t think I was going to complete it. It felt like I had a pile of rocks sitting on top of me. But I had all these supportive people behind me, giving me encouraging words.

I did graduate, when in my mind I didn’t think I could.  Now I have my Associate’s degree, and I want to see how far I can get with it.


Do you have a vision of what that looks like?

I know things can get rough and we can all go through our own problems. But this is what I would imagine: I have a career, I am wealthy; I have a husband and children who will not have to worry about anything. At the end of the day, you’re the one doing this for yourself and your family. When you feel like you’re doing enough, then that’s all you need.

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