Elaia Hatten was not sure what she wanted to do with her life — or if she even wanted to interact with people — when she first started classes at UEI College in Phoenix, but by the end of the program, she had surprised herself and everyone else by becoming a leader in the classroom and an enthusiastic medical assistant.
“I’ve had a hard knock life,” Elaia wrote. “I’ve been through the worst of the worst but kept going. What has kept me motivated is helping people. Even though I don’t feel like a people person, or so I thought, there has always been something inside of me that wants to make a little bit of difference in someone’s life.”
After four years of working as a cashier and struggling to make ends meet, Elaia felt ready for a career. Despite her shyness, she decided to give UEI a try.
“The first few weeks of class I was very quiet,” she said. “I’m not a people person and I have social anxiety. As I warmed up to my classmates and my teacher, I really did enjoy the atmosphere. My class was one of the smaller classes and I think that was better because it was more hands-on. After the first four weeks, I was drawing blood and giving injections like it was nothing. It was like, ‘Yeah, I really can do this. This was something that actually excites me.’ ”
“I remember when she came in, she told me she doesn’t really like people. I told her, ‘You are in the wrong place,’” said Apollonia Tarazon, Elaia’s instructor. “But she is definitely a leader. As she started to get more comfortable and we got new students every four weeks, she would take them under her wing and show them how to do things and explain things to them. She really became a leader and was very outgoing. She made people more comfortable being in class. One of my greatest joys in being an instructor is seeing them come in shy, not wanting to communicate, and then seeing them blossom and be confident in what they are doing.”
Elaia was confident for good reason. Despite having very little support at home, she was an excellent student and was consistently making the honor roll.
At the end of the program, Elaia requested to be sent to a smaller medical office to help with her social anxiety. She was placed at a GI specialist’s office and was hired at the end of her externship. At her graduation, she was recognized for her perseverance.
“I love that I can wake up every morning and go to a job that I worked hard to get, in a field I see myself working in for a very long time,” she said. “I’m not out here saving lives, but I am out here making some difference in someone’s life every day. One day I may take it further but for now, I am happy to be working as a medical assistant at my externship site.”