A single mother of three, DejuaVae Hudspeth had always wanted to experience giving birth naturally, without the use of pain medication or an epidural. So, when she became pregnant with her fourth child, DejuaVae contacted a midwife.
Using a midwife, she said, was one of the best decisions she’d ever made. Not only was her birth experience more fulfilling, but it planted the seed for a future career.
“The feeling I had, the accomplishment, the triumph … I want to have that for other women,” she said. “The feeling is so different. You really experience it. It was amazing, and I want to help other women experience this. I want to become a midwife.”
This was back in January of last year. And, as we’ve become accustomed to hearing, 2020 had a few challenges in store for DejuaVae.
Already struggling as the sole provider of her family of five, DejuaVae contracted COVID-19, from which it took her two months to recover. Then, soon after returning to work in the fall, she was laid off.
DejuaVae said this commitment and connection made all the difference in helping keep her head above water. The support, encouragement and resources she got from UEI helped her stay on track through all the challenges, ensuring she stayed focused on her most immediate goal: to graduate in April with her Medical Assistant diploma.
COVID-19 Couldn’t Stop Her
DejuaVae’s mom was a certified nursing assistant (CNA) for 18 years, and she would sometimes take DejuaVae to work with her. The experience left an indelible impression on her.
“I would help her with taking out the trash, making beds … things like that,” she said. “I thought it was the coolest thing to take care of people for a living.”
She got her first taste of being a true caregiver when, while in high school, both her mother and her little sister got sick. Already a teen mom, DejuaVae ended up quitting school so she could better focus on family.
“When they both went down, I had to step up to the plate and help out at home,” said DejuaVae, the third-oldest of 10 kids. “I made a sacrifice and didn’t go to school so I could be there for many family.”
The experience was good practice for her own future family. At 27, DejuaVae has four boys — 10, 5, 4 and almost 1 — which she’s long supported by working at a residential care facility. It was there that DejuaVae contracted COVID back in July.
Her illness lasted two months — a battle that left her alone and stranded at home while she sometimes fought to simply breathe. Her boys went to stay with her mother during that time.
“It was really confusing for them, and it was really difficult for me because no one wants someone else taking care of their kids,” DejuaVae said. “It was so hard seeing them cry and seeing them being upset on video calls, and then trying to explain to them mommy’s going to be OK. I feel like I spent most of my quarantine crying.”
But, she eventually recovered in time to start classes at UEI in the fall. She soon learned that this relationship with her new school would offer benefits that go beyond the classroom.
A Positive Experience at UEI
When DejuaVae lost her job just weeks after recovering from COVID, she said UEI was there to offer resources and support. The career services department shared job opportunities with her, and the college connected her with resources that helped keep her from getting evicted from her home. She was able to find a new job with better pay and with hours that would allow her to continue her studies in the MA program.
But, since money was still tight around the holidays, UEI connected her with a Christmas Angel program that helped ensure her kids had a Merry Christmas.
“DejuaVae’s application for the Christmas Angel Program was brought to my office by her instructor and other students to ensure she would be on the list. Her classmates continued to tell me how DejuaVae always cared about others and was willing to help whenever possible. We just knew she needed this blessing and we were honored to help such a determined student,” added Ernest Robinson, the Director of Education at the Phoenix Campus.
“One of our most ambitious and hardworking students, also a busy mother, DejuaVae has shown that she was more than deserving to be a Christmas Angel recipient,” said Christa Jones, Phoenix Campus President. “Her classmates made sure we knew that she needed some assistance over the holidays.”
“They make it really easy to be successful and make sure you don’t feel like you’re going through everything alone,” she said.
In the classroom, DejuaVae said her instructor Daphne Borterll, has been “absolutely amazing” in not only ensuring she absorbs each lesson, but in making each student accountable for her or his own journey. “The teachers … they’re personally invested in your success,” DejuaVae said. “They’re not going to do the work for you, but they’re absolutely there when you need them.”
“DeeDee has been an absolute pleasure to teach. She is very eager and open to learning. The one thing that stands out to me is her drive and ability to overcome all the adversity that has crossed her path during her journey with UEI,” Daphne said. “I know she is going to do well.”
And, few milestones go unnoticed at UEI College, regardless of how big or small.
“The way they celebrate you through your accomplishments … with UEI, it’s a big thing,” she said. “It feels like everyone is really rooting for you, and that helps immensely. It’s really good for me to see I’m making progress and doing well.”
The excitement of learning has even carried over into her home, where her boys enjoy quizzing her about each day’s lesson.
“The kids are super excited every time I go to school and come home,” she said. “If I’ve learned something new, they all want to learn about it — how to take manual blood pressure, what a tourniquet is, the steps I follow to take blood. It’s fun to teach it to my kids and see how interested they are.”
DejuaVae is on track to graduate in April with her Medical Assistant diploma. She’ll also have earned her high school diploma by then. After that, she plans to attend nursing school as part of her longer-term goal of becoming a midwife. She says signing up for classes at UEI gave her the confidence she needs to pursue this ultimate milestone.
“If there’s anyone like me who was kinda counting themselves out, living in survival mode and having no idea of what life would look like later, I’d recommend they look into UEI,” she said. “Just try it. There’s really not another way to put it. Just go for it. You’ll be so much better off.”