Antoinette Harris had just moved across the country with no job or stable housing when she saw a sign on the side of UEI College’s Phoenix campus she decided to take a chance.
“I wasn’t thinking about school for a long time and then it just so happened I saw that sign,” she said. “I went in to enroll.”
Antoinette had tried to go to school before in Georgia for Medical Billing and Insurance Coding but it didn’t work out. Now, in a new state, she was ready to try again.
“She was unsure about her career. She was in a bad relationship. She had unstable housing. She was a wreck,” said LaurieAnn Shockman, an admissions representative who met Antoinette that first day. “She was a beautiful soul, you could see the fire in her eyes that she wanted to do something different but she was unsure what direction to go. I spent a long time with her, going over the programs, doing a tour, and showing her what her future could be like. She was mesmerized.”
Antoinette quickly became a staple on campus. About halfway through the program, she was excelling.
“She was on fire,” said LaurieAnn. “She got so involved with the campus that she became an ambassador. She was helping other students, helping with activities. Anywhere you were on campus, you saw Antoinette helping. I was so proud of her.”
And then things took a turn. Just before her externship, Antoinette took a leave of absence.
“I didn’t want to. It was just a personal situation,” she said. “My living situation wasn’t stable. I was moving all over and sometimes I didn’t have transportation. I needed to take off for a while.”
While Antoinette was away, the staff on campus kept in contact with her.
“They just made me feel like my personal problems wouldn’t stop me, no matter how bad I thought it was,” Antoinette said. “They always helped me find solutions.”
More than a year later, she returned to finish what she had started. LaurieAnn, now a re-entry coordinator at the campus, was there to help. When Antoinette graduated, she had everyone at the school cheering for her.
“It brings me to tears almost because it took so many years and through so much hardship, but she prevailed,” LaurieAnn said. “That strength was in her and it won out. She remembered all the positivity and that we wanted her to succeed… Sometimes it takes more than once or twice but if you prevail and come back for the support that we are here to give, together it can happen. It’s amazing.”
Antoinette is the first in her family to graduate from college. She plans to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program.
“It shows me I can follow through with my plans, be responsible, take charge of my future and be prepared for obstacles to come but just know I can overcome them,” she said. “Definitely go, apply, keep in contact with all the staff. There is support. So much support from peers as well as the staff. If it’s something you really want to do, I would say go do it.”
If you’re interested in becoming a medical biller and insurance coder, consider enrolling in UEI College’s Medical Billing and Coding Program.