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One Graduate's Inspiring Journey to Achieve her Dream

June 05, 2016

On Saturday, June 4th, recent RN to MSN graduate, Elizabeth Manning was honored by Cleveland Magazine and the Greater Cleveland Nurses Association with the 2016 Next Generation of Care Award at the Faces of Care Gala. Elizabeth received her BSN this May, and is bridging to the MSN Program this fall. She was selected from the region’s top nursing programs to represent the next generation of healthcare givers in Northeast Ohio. Her story of triumph over adversity in her native country, Kenya, inspired attendees at the event. Her humility was palpable – as was her love of Ursuline College. Read her inspiring words below about her journey to complete her College education. 

When I decided to go back to college, my husband and I thought it would be a nice idea to go to Ursuline College, following the footsteps of his mom (my mother-in-law now deceased) and his dad's sister, Aunt Mary Patricia, who is close to her 90s! Furthermore, his great aunt, Aunt Latishia Manning, was an Ursuline Sister known as Sr. Cecilia Manning. 

The slogan "You are not a number" sold it to me first and foremost. That was the best phrase I had ever heard said to me as a student. As far as the UCAP Program is concerned, I liked the "compressed" five week sessions. It meant that I had to work a lot harder, but then time went by quickly. Also, as a mother although I did not have a job outside my home, it fit right in with my family's schedule given that I have two little and busy children, as well as with my husband's schedule. Once I got into a routine, school became quite enjoyable and anticipating a new class in a few weeks was something to look forward to. I did not like saying goodbye to the professors soon after getting to know them, but then there was always someone else new to look forward to meet. I could not have done it other way!

When I left my country Kenya a decade ago, I had an RN associate degree. Soon, that did not seem like enough to me given the resources available in this country, and I did not want to settle for that when great opportunity has been granted to me, hence my enrollment to college. I also feel that by completing this degree, I am setting a good example to my children and I have much more authority to insist that they place a high value in their own education. Well, they've seen me study hard and complete my homework, which I believe sends a strong message and sets a good example. Another factor motivating me to complete my degree is that I married into a family of highly educated people and I believe that my children are going to achieve a high education (every parent's dream), so I did not want to be the only one left behind. I call it positive pressure. Lastly, I hope to get promoted and make a better income in my career than I did before.  

Ursuline College has been a place where my personal and career goals and values have been reinforced, nurtured and brought to maturity. I believe I am already harvesting the benefits. From a very young age, my mom, back in Africa, taught me to value a good education, to give it my all, and allow God in on it: "that way, my children, the benefits of a good education will be sweeter and more valuable," she would say. I feel that while my mom always says those words in the languages of Kikuyu and Swahili, Ursuline College echoes them in English. Similarly, I feel that I have found my voice and I can confidently stand up, speak, and people actually listen to what I say. Not only have I found my own voice, I feel that now I am better prepared and equipped to allow the voices of others, especially the voiceless (most often the marginalized poor folks, patients, women, children, and minority groups), to be heard. Ursuline has given me a gift and has empowered me to use this gift fearlessly but respectively. Going forward, my vision is to look for opportunities to continue nurturing and developing the growth that began at the College. The seed has been planted, now it is mine duty to nurture and make it bear wonderful fruits that can nourish others. 

I grew extremely poor in Africa. Food was scarce, my clothes were tattered and rugged. I had no shoes until I was going to high school, and our house; well, our house, if you can call it a house, was falling apart and it rained inside to the extent where we needed umbrellas to cover ourselves. The problem is, we didn't own an umbrella! Rainy days were not fun because rain ruined our books and we got in trouble at school for it. Poverty meant that we went many days on empty stomachs, we were taken as a joke to other villagers. No one believed that anything good could ever come of my siblings and I. However, in the midst of that squalor was a very fierce woman, my mother, who was abandoned by her husband for another woman, who imparted strong values of hard work and dignity in her children. I am proud to say that all seven of her children have completed high school and six out of seven have a college degree. We were a joke no more, but instead became well-respected role models who are sought after for advice in the village. 

It has not been easy to reach the point where I am right now. Even though my siblings and I were able to get good grades at school, we had to struggle much more than others. Studying on an empty stomach is not easy. My grades did suffer in 8th grade and I remained in that grade for three years because I wanted to get good enough grades to be admitted into a good high school, which would ultimately get me out of poverty. I was mocked for repeating 8th grade times instead of settling for a local high school that did not offer a good education. This did not stop me and today, I would do it again! I am here because of that act of courage as a teenager. Eventually, I did go to one of the best all girls' high schools in Kenya, then proceeded to join a convent in the hopes of fulfilling my dream of becoming a Catholic nun. It was during my time at the convent that I met an Italian Catholic priest who paid for my entire college tuition. Unfortunately, my dream of becoming a nun did not materialize because the little convent I had joined closed down during my final year in college. Five years later, I met and married my American sweetheart who had come to Kenya as a volunteer doctor. We are still married, 12 years later and with two wonderful children. 

What can I say, "all glory and honor to God." I thank God everyday for my family who has been extremely supportive of me. They have had to put up with me when studying got tough. They have encouraged me, gone out of their way for me and made a lot more sacrifices for me than I would have ever asked for. May God bless them and I do this for them because of love.

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