Last July, Cierra Carr completed the Medical Assistant program at UEI College’s Oceanside campus. Yet, despite being nearly three months removed from the program, she still fields calls from current UEI students asking for help with their studies.
She’s happy to take the calls. A desire to help others, Cierra said, is just part of her personality.
“I love helping people, especially if it’s [for] something I love to do,” she said. “I’ve always been the type of person to help. Seeing other people’s success is the rewarding part.”
This desire to be of use to others is what made her want to pursue a job in the medical field. Yet, one hurdle was keeping the 23-year-old from going after her career of choice: she didn’t have a high school diploma.
With an eye toward overcoming this hurdle, Cierra paid a visit to UEI College, which she heard offers a program that allows people the opportunity to earn their high school diplomas. While there, she was thrilled to learn that the school offers career training for Medical Assistants.
So, with her husband’s support and a strong desire to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who has long worked in the medical field, Cierra enrolled in the program. In just nine months’ time, she completed the program with straight-A’s and a Student Ambassadorship, then earned a full-time position as a Medical Assistant.
And, despite all this – and true to form for Cierra – she remains in touch with UEI College’s Oceanside campus … you know, just in case she could help in any way.
“I’ve been back there a couple of times since I finished,” said Cierra, who completed her externship in July 2021. “I go back to see if they need help. I love the school. They actually care, and so why not? They helped me so much, so why not just go back in and help other people?”
FINDING ENCOURAGEMENT FROM FAMILY & UEI COLLEGE
Cierra said that throughout her entire life, her mom has worked in the medical field. Seeing what her mother did to help people day in and day out left a lasting impression on her.
“[My mother] is officially an occupational therapist, and just her passion for helping people … even when I was younger, that was something I wanted to do,” Cierra said.
These dreams took a bit of a detour, however, when Cierra was 16. That’s the year she became pregnant with her first of three children, and this led to her dropping out of high school. Along with focusing on being a mom, Cierra worked in retail, most recently at an area Walmart.
Health complications resulted from the birth of her youngest child, causing her to quit working for a period of time to take care of both herself and her children. It was during this time when Cierra began to consider both her education and career.
“I was just sitting at home and I thought, ‘Doing this is going to be a lot easier now than before when I was working,’” Cierra said. “Plus, I have a wonderful husband who encouraged me to go back [to school]. With that encouragement and knowing I had the help, it was easier for me to do it now than wait for later.”
Once enrolled in UEI’s Medical Assistant program, Cierra quickly learned that she would also gain another level of positive encouragement from the college’s staff and faculty, including her instructors.
“The instructor that I had when I started, she makes it, like, so easy because she was actually like that mother figure-type teacher who would not let you fail,” she said. “There was a time I told her I’m ready to quit – I have three kids, I don’t know if I can get homework done, I’m doing my high school diploma and medical assistant courses … it was all very difficult – and she was like, ‘No, you’re not.’ Not only wouldn’t she let me quit, but she really motivated me to become better.”
CAPITALIZING ON EDUCATION & CAREER OPPORTUNITIES
Despite the difficulties, Cierra earned high grades in all her classes. On top of that, she became a Student Ambassador at the school, helping new students assimilate to the program while helping others who were having difficulties with their classes.
“I tutored students that needed help, and I helped with new student enrollment … you know, the first start date and getting students situated on SOAR,” she said.
For her externship, Cierra accepted a role at Crownview Co-Occurring Institute, an Oceanside-based facility that provides primary psychiatric treatment for multiple levels of mental health disorders. She quickly fell in love with the work, so when they offered her a full-time job just two weeks into her externship, Cierra accepted.
“We work with people with different mental health issues, and I work right underneath the doctors,” she said. “I love it. It’s literally the perfect place for me. I get to work closely, one-on-one with our clients. It’s different, and a lot of people can’t handle mental health. But for me, to be able to work in that field and understand mental health has been nothing but a blessing.”
“Cierra, simply put, is a joy to be around. She lights up any room,” said Alex Poyuzina, Campus President at UEI College’s Oceanside campus. “It does not surprise me that she was offered a job straight from her externship rotation. Anyone who gets to know her would do just that.”
Cierra said she looks forward to continuing this work until her kids get a little bit older. Then, she plans on going back to school to become a Registered Nurse (RN). Until then, she said she appreciates the opportunities UEI College helped make possible in her life.
“Just pursuing [the medical field] meant everything to me,” she said. “I don’t plan on stopping here, though. It’s just a start.”
“I don’t say this often, but once Cierra gets her work experience and qualifies to teach, I can envision her being an asset to UEI future students as a teacher and mentor and would love to invite her to consider that option,” Alex said.