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2023 - Megan Petronella: From ECC employee to ECC graduate

Tags: Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/15/2023
Elgin Community College Spring 2023 graduate Megan Petronella

Elgin Community College Spring 2023 graduate Megan Petronella

My journey to discovering what I wanted to be when I grew up was very long and winding. I have started and stopped college multiple times. Right out of high school, I originally went to college for another science-based degree and struggled. A professor pulled me aside and told me to choose a new major because I was not cut out for the sciences. I took that information to heart and changed majors before leaving school for the first time. Fast forward about a decade, I was married, had two toddlers, worked full-time, and returned to school for my Early Childhood Education degree at Elgin Community College. I transferred to a four-year school to earn my bachelor’s degree; however, by that time, I had three children under six, and we chose for me to stay home with them.

In 2014, we adopted our son from Hong Kong, and after a year or so, it was time for me to return to work. I started working in ECC’s Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships and met some of the best people I have ever worked with. Helping people of all ages return to school day after day was motivating. With encouragement from my coworkers, I decided to try my hand at some of the science prerequisites to see if I could get into nursing. I surprised even myself with how well I did. I applied and was accepted into the nursing program to start in the fall of 2020.

Starting nursing school during COVID-19 was not easy. Three-hour Zoom lectures, video validations, and minimal in-person “hands-on” experience were difficult. I did not pass my third semester in the fall of 2021. I took the following semester to regroup and retake a few classes to transfer for my BSN. Things were so much better when I restarted my third semester in the fall of 2022. In-person classes and clinicals with more opportunities for hands-on learning made a world of difference. The encouragement and kindness of every instructor were evident when I arrived back on the 3rd floor. My family has pushed and encouraged me every step of the way. They have comforted me and brought me all the junk food they know I love to eat when stressed. They picked up the slack at home by cooking or cleaning and gave me the space to study. My coworkers rearranged their schedules to allow me to attend class and clinical; they never complained. My classmates sent me texts and encouraging notes. My current cohort, some of whom have been with me since our HPE class in 2020, has kept me going and has become lifelong friends.

My education is far from over. I will begin my BSN program next year and look forward to new opportunities to keep learning and growing as a new nurse. I finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I am so excited to see where my future takes me and my family.

Megan Petronella, Algonquin

Associate of Applied Science