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Graduate Essays - Cassie Stevens: Thanks to ECC, I'm finally starting my dream career

Graduation Cap

A few ECC graduates share what this achievement means to them

Tags: Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 12/16/2021
Cassie Stevens, Fall 2021 ECC Graduate

Cassie Stevens, Fall 2021 ECC Graduate

I have wanted to be a nurse for as long as I can remember. At age seven, I read all the books my mom had bought in preparation for the birth of my younger sister. I was in awe of the labor and delivery process. As a pastor’s kid, I often accompanied my dad to hospital visitations, where I’d follow the nurses around. Amused by my interest, the nurses set me up with all kinds of gear to take home and practice procedures on my dolls – gauze, bandages, syringes with the needles snapped off (it was the 1980s). When I was nine, my dad was hospitalized for sciatica issues, and discharged on bed rest. It was a dream come true – a real-life patient who was immobilized and could not escape my care. 

I continued to read and plan and practice and dream, but when it came time for me to graduate high school and attend college, I faltered. I did not think that I could be successful in the nursing program, so I took a different route, graduating with a B.A. in biblical studies and counseling. I worked as a secretary for over 20 years, helping to support my family, and hoping that I could grow to love Microsoft Excel. The draw to nursing never went away, though.

In 2018, the time was right for me to go back to school. I investigated a number of schools, and found my home at ECC. I was intimidated to attend my first class as an older student, but my classmates and instructors were welcoming and engaging. Once I started Anatomy & Physiology, I knew I had found my calling. Dr. Charles Dakarian and Professor Chad Pearion prepared me well for the Nursing Program entrance exam, and I officially entered the program in January 2020. 

Nursing school orientation was terrifying. I still did not believe that I was capable of completing the program, but I met classmates who were to become life-long friends that first day, and my classroom and clinical instructors came alongside me to guide and encourage me. That has made all the difference – the “alongside coaching.” Never punitive, never belittling; guiding. Being a 40-something student can be an isolating experience – my peers can’t quite understand my college experience, and my classmates are generally not housewives and parents of teenagers. But I never felt that I was alone on this journey. I’m not the same person today that I was two years ago, thanks to my instructors, the academic and wellness advisors, and the support of my friends and family. I’m graduating with honors, and excited to start a new career in my dream field.

My advice to future students is that it is never too late to pursue your passion. The time is going to pass anyway; you might as well spend it doing something you love.

Special, heartfelt thanks to Dr. Dakarian, A’Ja Ferguson, Barb Tarin, TJ Latto, Peggy LeMoyne, Susan Espeland, Shime Herrera, and Vinny Cascio.

Cassie Stevens ‘21

Associate in Applied Science

Elgin, IL