Cerra Lapsley always knew she wanted to be in the medical field but at 26 years old with six children to take care of, she wasn’t sure she would ever have the opportunity.
“I was nervous. I had a lot of doubts. I didn’t think I could do it,” she said. “I hadn’t been to school in a long time. I was nervous and doubted myself a lot.”
Things changed when Cerra decided to enroll in the Medical Assistant program at United Education Institute in Morrow. Just nine months later she was ready to graduate with her high school diploma, her Medical Assisting diploma and a full-time job with a pediatrician.
“I just love helping people,” Cerra said. “It’s my thing. I’ve always loved to help everybody.”
The path to this career was not easy for Cerra. As a child she witnessed her mother’s death and as a teen her life spiraled. She ran away from home and ended up in the sex trafficking trade for several years. At the age of 18 she gave birth to her first child. By the time she turned 23 she already had 6 children to care for.
“Being a mother of six kids, I wanted to be able to get a career to be able to take care of my kids and not depend on anybody,” she said. “I just want them to be proud of me. The last straw was the last job I worked at I just wasn’t happy. I wanted to do something that would make me happy. I had always wanted to go to school but I had so much going on, I just wanted to show my kids no matter what you’ve been through it’s never too late. With everything I’ve been through, it was time.”
At UEI, Cerra found the support she needed. She was able to get her high school diploma within four months and still managed to pass her medical assistant courses with excellent grades.
“That was a wonderful feeling,” she said. “I thought it was too late to get my high school diploma. I was really proud of myself for actually doing that. I was also doing that at the same time as the program which was hard. When I got done it was like a sigh of relief. I was really proud of myself that I got through it, and I did it.”
When the course got tough, Cerra looked to her children.
“They are always excited to see me going to school,” she said. “They say ‘Mommy is going to school like me!’ It’s rewarding. It feels like I did something right. They notice I’m doing something right.”
“She was very determined,” said Tolelia Starks, Cerra’s instructor. “She always showed up even when she didn’t feel well. She always turned her work in on time as well and was very active in lab. She has a soft-spoken personality and I know as a medical assistant it’s important to take the initiative and she has always done that. It definitely gives me that push to keep going to inspire other students like her.”
Even with the challenges of everyday life, Cerra found joy in attending school. She graduated in January and plans to attend nursing school in the future.
“I’m happier than I was a year ago,” she said. “I know that I have a career now that I can love. I’m in a way better head space than I was a year ago. Before I found school I was depressed and going through it. I feel like my relationships have gotten better. I know I have a job where a year ago I didn’t. Everybody goes through hard times. You have to believe in yourself that you can do it and achieve your goals. Go for it. It will be hard. It’s not an easy road but you have to step out there and go for it.”