PENDLETON — The last day of final exams for Tri-County Technical College associate degree nursing graduate Stormie Moore was tough.
She wasn’t struggling with academics and last-minute projects, but was feeling ambivalent in terms of letting go of people who had become like family and a place that she fondly calls her second home.
“This is the second most emotional day of my life – the first being the birth of my daughter. I’m leaving here with good memories,” said Moore, as she reflected on her transformational seven-year journey from pregnant high school dropout to college honor graduate. She readily admits she could have been a statistic.
“Many studies show that more often than not, adolescent mothers are undereducated and thus are more likely to suffer the effects of poverty. I’m extremely proud to say that I’m not going to be that statistic. Thanks to some encouragement and motivation from some wonderful people, I don’t have to be,” said the Dacusville resident.
The road was rocky in the beginning for the self-described rebellious teen who gave birth at 15 to daughter, Makynzi, now seven and dropped out of high school. She said the social stigma of being an unwed teenage mother, along with a sketchy attendance record and blasé attitude toward academics, were major reasons for dropping out.
“I had no motivation or support. The easy decision was to not go back to school and repeat the 10th grade.”
With the arrival of her daughter came a newfound determination.
“My daughter gave me super powers. I knew I needed a life change. She was my reality check,” said Stormie.
Intent on making a great life for Makynzi, she began to formulate a plan that included education. She found the Parenting Education and Family Literacy Program in Pickens and began to attend GED prep classes and took advantage of onsite child care. She began studying by taking pre-GED tests and learned she had superior scores, ranking in the top fifth percentile, but laws mandated her to attend prep classes until age 17.
She spent the next year brushing up on academics in classes and anxiously awaiting her 17th birthday. Close to the end of the school year Christina Cobb talked with her about Palmetto Youth Connections (PYC), a community partnership that focuses on serving out-of-school youth ages 17-21 years old by providing case management, counseling, training, career development and employment services.
PYC offers supportive services to WIA Youth participants in the form of course costs, transportation assistance, childcare, tools, uniforms, books and monetary incentives for goal completion. .
After passing the GED in 2008, she signed up for nurse aide classes at Tri-County and after completing the work experience program, she got her first job as a certified nurse aide. She continued classes in the College’s Corporate and Community Education Division with PYC providing more funding toward CPR, medical terminology, and phlebotomy certifications.
“It felt amazing to reach these milestones in my education,” said Stormie, who entered Tri-County’s associate degree nursing program in 2010. Since then she’s been on the dean’s list, president’s list and academic distinction lists and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa national honor society.
At 22, she’s embarking on a new career and new opportunities and looks forward securing a job as a registered nurse in a hospital.
She believes being a hospital patient several times in her life gives her a better perspective on how to be a caring and compassionate nurse. She entered the world fighting, born prematurely at 7 months from an abdominal pregnancy (an extremely rare type of extrauterine pregnancy whereby the fetus continues to grow in the abdominal cavity).
She also was born without one of her hip ball joints (which grew later) and she had a club foot. As a result, she spent the first year of her life in a body cast. Stormie, whose father was an Army reservist on standby during Desert Storm, named her Stormie Deserae.
During her second semester at Tri-County, she landed in the hospital following an asthma attack. She went into respiratory failure and spent 10 days on a ventilator but rebounded and finished the semester.
“Stormie is very determined,” said Janet Fuller, nursing department head at Tri-County. “She’s also intelligent, empathetic, caring and compassionate, and puts the patients and their families first — always. You won’t find a nicer, more loyal person. A hospital will be very lucky to get her.”
“I recall the first day of class when Mrs. Fuller asked us to look around the classroom. She said ‘this is your family for the next two years.’ I thought she was crazy. But I’ll be darned if she wasn’t right. Because of these people, I’ve met goals I didn’t even know I had,” Stormie said.
“The decisions we make today can affect us for the rest of our lives — if we let them. Life will have its up and downs. But there are more ups than downs if you have an education,” said Stormie, who is the first in her immediate family to finish college. “Coming from where I was to where I am today, it’s like night and day,” she added. She has plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing after working for a while. “I don’t want to stop here. I know I have it in me.”