Summer Ellison had long wanted to have a career in the medical field, either helping people in the clinic or their pets as a veterinarian. But, when she had her son at the age of 16, then finished high school online, she didn’t feel such a career was in the cards … at least not yet.
So, she put her dream on hold.
“At that point in life, I didn’t think I could do it,” she said. “Being young and having a young child, I didn’t know how to juggle everything.”
Around the time her son turned six, Summer found out he’d been suffering from an undiagnosed kidney disease. He’s doing well now, but at the time, the diagnosis forced them to spend a good bit of time in the hospital. While certainly a difficult period, the experience was one of clarity for Summer, at least where her career aspirations were concerned.
“It got me thinking that I would love to be a part of something that could better the lives of kids,” she said. “That’s what got my eye on the medical field again, and instead of just wishing it, I did it.”
Summer began researching schools. Having a young son at home meant nothing quite fit her schedule, though. She preferred the flexibility of an online classroom, but the hands-on nature of medical training meant most programs didn’t offer entirely remote learning.
“I knew that hybrid option would definitely work,” she said of the ability to take online classes while only going to campus twice per week for hands-on lab training. “I called the school, brought my son with me for a visit, walked the school, and it was definitely a fit.”
Summer enrolled in the program and started classes in July of 2021. Now just past the halfway point of the program, she has earned A’s in all her classes and is projected to graduate in April.
If she finishes in time, she will be part of the first-ever graduating class at the UEI Mesa campus.
“It’s been an awesome find,” Summer said of UEI College. “It’s a big change. It was life-changing, and I’m so glad that I did it.”
UEI’S HYBRID MODEL MADE TRANSITION BACK TO SCHOOL EASIER
Following high school, Summer worked a few years in retail and customer service. Before enrolling at UEI College, in fact, she had progressed through the ranks to become the assistant manager at a local feed store.
But, her heart wasn’t in the job. She grew up seeing family members succeed in the medical field – she had aunts and uncles who succeeded in careers such as doctor and physical therapist – and Summer suspected there was a place for her in healthcare, as well.
It came down to simply finding the right educational fit.
“When I saw UEI provided the hybrid model of classes, I thought that would be a great option,” Summer said. “It’s awesome to only have to only go in two days a week. With the other days being online, I’m able to be home for my son.”
Despite being confident she had found the right place, Summer admits to also being quite nervous on the first day of classes. She quickly discovered a level of comfort within the program, however.
“Not thinking I would go into college after I had my son and then just jumping into it, it was definitely nerve-wracking,” she said. “But, the teachers and staff were so friendly, everything kind of fell into place. The school played a role in knocking out all the nerves.”
Specifically, Summer said her instructor, Kelli Martinez, along with staff members such as Mesa Director of Education Alison Wilson, have supported her while she strived to achieve success as a Medical Assistant student at UEI College.
“They’re so amazing,” she said. “They don’t make you feel like you can’t ask them anything. They’ll come over and take time and show you. They won’t let you walk away without knowing. I feel comfortable with everything about UEI.”
The admiration appears to go both ways.
“She is the first to arrive to class with a smile on her face, eager to learn,” Kelli Martinez said. “Summer goes above and beyond to help her classmates with homework and lab skills, along with taking the lead with school activities. It has been a pleasure watching her grow within class. She demonstrates all the great qualities of a medical assistant.”
“Summer is an amazing student,” Alison Wilson added. “She is dedicated, hardworking, caring, and quick to lend a hand when needed. She exemplifies what a good Medical Assistant should be. Summer is a leader in her class, and we have been excited to watch her journey and cannot wait to see all the good things she does in extern and in the future!”
CONSIDERING HER NICHE WITHIN THE MEDICAL FIELD
Summer says her currently support system is now much stronger than it has ever been, both in and out of school. Her son is now 11 and loves seeing his mom working hard in school, a sense of delight that’s matched by Summer’s fiancé.
“My son went with me when we first visited UEI, and he was excited for me when we were there,” she said. “I feel like when I put my uniform on, he looks at me with a lot of pride. And my fiancé, too.”
Coincidentally, Summer found work at a COVID testing site while attending school. Though such tasks align with her studies, it doesn’t quite align with her long-term goals in the field. She learned UEI Mesa has a connection with a local naturopath physician, an area in healthcare within which she’d like to earn more experience.
The plan, she hopes, is to secure an externship with this naturopath, then perhaps work in that sector following graduation.
“I would like to work for a little while and see if I want to stay with being a medical assistant,” she said. “Then within a year or two, I’d like to go back to school and become a registered nurse.”
Summer said she’s thrilled to have discovered UEI College so soon after it opened its new Mesa campus. Not only has the education and training been top-notch, but the way the program’s set up actually helped encourage her to turn the first page of this new chapter in her life.
“I’m so happy,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine going to any other school. I was talking to other schools at the time, but once I found UEI, I was definitely sold. And, as it’s a smaller school, you get more one-on-one with the teachers.”