$500 scholarship changes a life

Courtesy photo: Second year nursing student, Lynda Strickland, listens to the lungs of this mannikin which can be programmed to breathe, to speak and even to simulate real-life health challenges.

Lynda Strickland had just paid for her summer classes at Trinidad State and was out of money.  She needed another $485 for her nursing books. 

She had run out of options.    “I asked God if he could help me get this money because I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t want to ask my mom for help,” said Strickland, a second-year nursing student at Trinidad State.

And then she got the email. 

The surprise scholarship was small, $500, but it would cover the cost of her books and that was what she needed now. 

“Oh my God,” she exclaimed.  She hollered to her mom.  “Mom, come see this!” as she pointed at her computer. 

“I just started crying,” she said. 

“I couldn’t believe it.  It was the strangest thing.  I still can’t believe it!”

Because her two girls are raised and she is only supporting herself, Strickland did not qualify for financial aid.  But that didn’t stop this non-traditional, fifty-five-year-old mother from following her dream.  After working over twenty years as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), she is moving on.  And she is not moving on alone.

For the past year or so she has been working as a CNA at The Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center near Walsenburg, Colorado.  She was missing her recently-retired mom, Carolyn, who lived in Austin, Texas. 

“Every girl needs her mom,” Strickland said.  “My mom is my biggest fan and she spoils me, and I love her so much.”  Strickland asked her mom if she would move to Colorado.

When Carolyn came to visit, she loved the small-town feel of Trinidad and she felt it was affordable, comparable to Austin.  She also learned it has a large retirement population.  She told Lynda if she could find a suitable house within her price range, she would move.  

The first four homes they looked at were not pretty, but the realtor had one more to show them.  When her mom walked into that “beautiful” home, it felt right to her, and she immediately expressed her interest to the realtor even without consulting Lynda who was planning to move in with her.

When they were comfortably settled, Strickland, thinking about their two-block distance from Trinidad State, decided to go back to school.  “You’re never too old to learn,” she said.  “And there’s a college right there.  I need to better myself so I can help other people.  My mom helps me all the time.  She’s always there for me.”

So, Strickland enrolled at Trinidad State.

When she was little, she wanted to be a candy striper (a young volunteer who assists in a hospital). 

Her CNA experience expanded on that desire and when she heard that Trinidad State had a good nursing program, it seemed logical, to take it a step further.  She is working toward her degree as a Registered Nurse.  At first, her daughters said, “You’re old mom. 

What are you doing?” But before long, both girls followed their grandmother to Trinidad from Texas and to Strickland’s surprise and delight, they decided “If Mom can do it, so can we.” 

They too enrolled at Trinidad State. 

Krystal, Strickland’s youngest daughter, took the nursing prerequisite classes right along with her mom.  They sat together in class and they studied together.  “It was a beautiful experience for us,” said Strickland.

After completing her year of nursing prerequisites with her mom, Krystal had the opportunity to work with a company that provides respite care for families who have children with behavioral issues. 

She’s loving it and she is keeping the option of returning to college open.  Her sister, Amber, is still attending Trinidad State and has two years left to earn her bachelor’s degree in teaching.

“Every time I drive by the college I say, “I love that college.” My mom says, “I know, Lynda.  I know.” But Strickland goes on, “…because there’s all ages, all kinds of colors and all kinds of people.  They love every one of us and they make us succeed.  It blows my mind.  I can’t believe I’m doing it!  I didn’t know if I could.”

Strickland plans to complete her RN degree and work for a while and then decide if she will move on to a Bachelor’s in Nursing (Trinidad State’s first four-year degree).  The Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center has already expressed an interest in keeping her and that is exciting.

And now Strickland’s mom is thinking about taking creative classes at the college.  Will Trinidad State become an adventure for four in this family when it began as an adventure for one?  Time will tell.

To learn more about the nursing program at Trinidad State, contact Nursing Director LoriRae Hamilton at [email protected] or 719-846-5524.


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