Becoming a nurse is challenging under the best conditions. The rigorous program at Schoolcraft College, for example, includes one day of theory and two days of clinical, plus homework and studying. Add the demanding curriculum to responsibilities at work and at home, and nursing students often must become adept time and activity jugglers while they train to become vital front-line healthcare works. 

Of course, today’s nursing students also have to deal with the terrible emotional and economic impacts created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Schoolcraft College nursing students Tiera Graham and Autumn McKinney work hard each day to overcome those obstacles and succeed. Each earned an Associate in Applied Science Degree during Commencement ceremonies in May. Each also was awarded $1,000 by Soroptimist International of Hines Park for the “Live Your Dream” award. 

Soroptimist International works with women who are financially responsible for family members and who are working to improve their job prospects by pursuing a degree or certificate.

“With COVID-19, students are having to deal more with child care issues and doing more in terms of educating their children from home because the schools have been closed,” said Dr. Debi Vendittelli, DNP*, ANP-BC**, Schoolcraft College nursing program associate dean. “Plus their significant other may not be working, or there are other family obligations, so there’s been tremendous economic and emotional hardship.”


Both Graham and McKinney became interested in nursing at an early age.

For Graham, of Detroit, her exposure began with a grandmother who was a nurse at a nursing home. That inspired Graham to become a patient sitter and then a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). 

“My sister pushed me to take the next step and become an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse),” Graham said. “I had three children at the time, so I didn’t think there was any way I could go to school and take care of the kids. 

“But I graduated in December of 2017 and the next year I enrolled at Schoolcraft. I really appreciate the way they let me take care of my family and go to school and work. I have my last payment due and I haven’t been able to work as much because of COVID, so the Live Your Dream award will cover my tuition. I’m very grateful.”

McKinney, of Ann Arbor, traces her interest in nursing to a career day in middle school. She’s also seen her work schedule curtailed because of COVID and been feeling the pinch economically.

“It just seems like I’m always behind on bills, so the Live Your Dream award is a big help,” she said. “It will make things a little easier. I appreciate this award very much.”

McKinney also is a mother.

“I have three daughters and I want to set a good example for those ladies,” she said.

*DNP stands for Doctor of Nursing Practice 

**ANP-BC stands for Adult Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified

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