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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Saving a baby’s life confirmed career direction for student in Vocational Nursing program

June 25, 2018

SJVC Visalia Vocational Nursing program student Amanda with daughterTemperatures were in the 70s the day Amanda Dollman heard frantic cries as she walked to her car in a hospital parking lot. She noticed an older woman and a younger man trying to get into a locked car. “I asked if everything was ok, thinking I could call AAA for them,” says Amanda. There wasn’t time to wait for roadside service.

Amanda heard a baby’s cry and came closer to help. The man and woman clearly didn’t want to get a security guard or call the police, but kept trying to force the door open. Amanda knew the car’s interior temperature had to be getting very uncomfortable.

She ran to her car to find something, anything to help pry the door open or smash a window. She found her medical equipment bag she kept with her at all times for her Vocational Nursing classes at SJVC’s Visalia campus. She grabbed the blood pressure cuff and ran back to the locked car.

“I wadded it up, slid it between the door crack and started pumping,” says Amanda. “It began to inflate, and the crack got bigger.” None of them could reach their hand inside from where they stood. Amanda got on top of the car and lay on her stomach to force her arm inside and pull the lock.

With the 9-month-old baby boy now safely in his grandmother’s arms, there were tears of relief.

“This is why I’m going to nursing school; this is why I’m doing what I’m doing,” Amanda reminded herself. If she needed confirmation of her career direction, she got it that day.

At just 21-years-old, Amanda has already accomplished so much. She finished high school when she was 16 and working two part-time jobs. When Amanda was 18, she had her daughter Aaliyah.  By the time she was 19, she was managing a 20-unit apartment complex where she and Aaliyah get to live rent-free as compensation. During this time, she worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant while she completed Pharmacy Technology studies at adult school.

But something just didn’t feel right with her career direction. She needed to slow things down and choose a path and a plan that would provide the best life for herself and her daughter.

Always in the back of her mind was the nursing program at SJVC. She had applied twice and had not been accepted. She applied a third time and waited. “I prayed about it and didn’t put pressure on myself; I just had faith,” says Amanda. She got the call in February. “I had overwhelming tears of joy because everything I had worked for to that point had paid off,” she remembers.

The first person she called was her stepmom Kat. “She is always the first person I call,” says Amanda. “She tells me, ‘It’s OK; you’ve earned this.’ I felt like this was my time.”

But Amanda knew it was going to take a village to help her make her education dreams come true. Her family was ready to help in any way she needed, especially with 3-year-old Aaliyah’s care.

Amanda’s dad Michael and her stepmom – whom she recognizes as ‘mom’ – have been together for 14 years and are her emergency first-calls. “If it is something she doesn’t know, he will know,” she says.

Aaliyah’s dad Issiah keeps her mornings while Amanda is in class, and Issiah’s mom Olivia watches Aaliyah on weekends when Amanda has to study or catch up on other responsibilities. Extended family members – Amanda has two sisters and three step-brothers – pitch in when they can.

“It is rough, but I have an amazing support system that makes me know she (Aaliyah) is OK,” says Amanda.

She is three months into her Vocational Nursing program and is surprised to find more than career education and training happening. “I’m meeting all kinds of different people from different cities and backgrounds,” says Amanda. “Some are the same age as my parents and some are fresh out of high school. It was scary at first, but now I don’t go a day without talking with classmates. We’ve leaned on each other, we’ve cried with each other. Some have no kids, some older kids, but we’re all going through this together.”

Amanda’s career goals are finally taking shape. “I’m probably leaning toward working in a long-term care facility,” she says, remembering her great-grandmother Honestine living in one. “I always wanted more for her, more for anyone there who is someone’s mother, grandma, sister or aunt. They deserve that; they deserve dignity.”

At some point, Amanda wants to stretch higher and become a Registered Nurse. “I plan to apply for SJVC’s bridge program and go from LVN to the RN program to become a Registered Nurse.”

Her vision reaches beyond even that accomplishment. “I don’t want my career to stop at that,” she says. “When my daughter is older, I want to go back and become a nurse practitioner.”

No doubt Amanda’s family will be there for the long haul. But by that time, she plans to be the one on the giving side of the equation. “I want to buy a house, settle down and take care of my parents because they’ve always taken care of me,” she says. “I want to make sure my dad can retire without having to worry about anything.”

Amanda admits she is a little prideful and resistant to the help her mom and dad have offered, especially financial. “When that happens, dad asks if I would do that for Aaliyah,” she says. “And, of course, I would. He knows that shuts me up.”

Amanda’s vision of success and happiness is expansive and includes all those helping to hold her up as she makes her way there.

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