It’s Never “Too Late” to Find Purpose in Life
When Robin Nance’s heart stopped, she was home with her husband, Willie, and one of her sons. Because they were quick to react, Robin was rushed to the hospital where, thankfully, she was fully revived and fitted with a pacemaker.
“The doctor said I have a lazy heart,” Robin said with a slight chuckle. “I wasn’t really convinced because I’m not really all that lazy.”
She’s powered through health scares before.
Back in the early 90s, health conditions forced Robin to give up her career as a certified nurse’s aide (CNA). More than a decade later, in 2016, she had to quit her Activities Director job at a convalescent home due to similar circumstances.
Robin was 65 at that point — retirement age for most — but she still had personal and career goals she wanted to accomplish, no matter her age or the condition of her body.
“I never finished high school, and I’ve always wanted to get my high school diploma,” she said. “Plus, depression pushed me to want to keep busy. I need to have purpose in life.”
Serendipitously, she stumbled across an article about UEI College that discussed how students could participate in the school’s Eligible Career Pathways Program (“ECPP”). ECPP was developed by the U.S. Department of Education to allow students without a valid high school diploma to attend a college program, while also attending the adult education program to complete high school. Inspired to act, Robin reached out to UEI College in Stockton and eventually registered as a student in its Medical Office Specialist program.
She was 68 then. Today, she’s nearly 70 and now a high school graduate. She also earned her Medical Office Specialist diploma, a journey that was quite nearly derailed by her “lazy heart,” if not for the support and encouragement surrounding her.
Drawn to a Medical Career
Robin was 13 when she first took an interest in the medical field. Her mom was sick, and she tragically passed away in the hospital when, in Robin’s eyes, she could have lived out her remaining days at home.
“I wanted to learn how I could take care of her so she could have come home, but she died before that could happen,” she said. “That’s when I decided I wanted to be a nurse to help take care of people.”
This desire didn’t go away when health complications twice forced her from work. And, it didn’t go away when, while registered as a student at UEI College in Stockton, her heart stopped that dreadful day in 2020.
“I was partway through the [Medical Office Specialist] program when it happened, and yeah, there were times I wanted to quit the school,” Robin said. “But, my teachers — Ms. [Aisha] Abercrombie and Ms. Tonia Sood — they were behind me 100 percent and wouldn’t let me give up.”
Following a week in the hospital and another few days of at-home recovery, Robin went back to taking classes at UEI.
“[The instructors] were very helpful. Very helpful,” she said. “I’m a slow learner, and they worked with me. They were there to give me the little extra help I needed to keep going.”
“Robin is the true definition of determination,” Aisha said. “She had cried many times about how family and friends told her she was too old, too sick and could not do it. She had heart surgery on a Friday, and was in bed on Monday in ZOOM and completing assignments. She has proven her family and friends — to everyone — that she can do it, and she did! Congratulations to Robin.”
“Robin is an inspiration to so many of her classmates and they appreciated her positive words of wisdom,” Tonia added. “She is a hard worker with a huge heart. I am so proud of her. When I first met Robin, she walked with a cane, leaning slightly forward with a sense of insecurity about her. The day she finished her externship hours, she came to campus and walked through that front door with her head held high, a pep in her step and no cane to lean on. She was just shining so bright with pride, I cried.”
Robin said classmates and fellow students pushed her, as well, serving as her own personal cheerleaders.
“They called me Ms. Robin,” she said. “They told me, ‘Ms. Robin, you can do it! Ms. Robin, you’ve got it!’ It really kept me going.”
But, her biggest rock through school and all of her health problems — besides God, she says — was her husband of 43 years, Willie.
“I was so proud that she stuck with it,” Willie said. “I used to get on her case about studying. She’d be so motivated that I’d say, ‘Hey, Baby, it’s time to go to bed.” Sometimes, that was almost around 12 o’clock at night. But, she was steadfast at what she was doing, and I was really proud of her for that.”
“I am so proud of Robin, she truly is the epitome of grit and determination,” said Campus President Sandra Gracia. “She has shown us that no matter how old we are, no matter what situations arise, we can overcome and come out triumphantly.”
Robin said she will suggest UEI College to anyone, of any age, who wants to improve themselves educationally, professionally and/or personally.
“I would recommend UEI without any hesitation,” she said. “They are great. They’re helpful, they work with you, and they’re very friendly. What else can I say? They were there for me.”