This article originally appeared at Community College Daily.
Mark Brock isn’t your typical college graduate. At 50 years old, he’s already graduated college once and worked for 25 years supporting the Department of Defense’s Space Defense Missile Shield, or Star Wars, program and other security and intelligence programs.
But this week, Brock will earn an associate in applied science degree in nursing from Wallace State Community College in Alabama, completing a new path he started about five years ago.
Brock says one of his earliest childhood memories is hearing the parable of the Good Samaritan in church: “As soon as he saw the man, he went over to him and felt compassion for him. He put bandages on his sores and poured oil and wine on the sores to prevent them from getting worse.” The parable’s message, he said, is simple, “Go and do the same.”
On a mission
Brock took that message to heart and, as a counselor and teacher of youth at his church, he participated in many domestic and foreign mission trips to help others. But after each trip he would return home to his job and resume his normal life.
In 2011, however, he wasn’t able to put the memories of his last trip aside so easily. In August of that year, Brock traveled to Jacmel, Haiti, to assist an orphanage and small church congregation still reeling from the 2010 earthquake that devastated the area.
“On the last day of the trip, the pastor I was traveling with encountered a young girl who was obviously sick, with open sores and running a fever,” Brock says. “We had some medicine, including antibiotics. However, I was unsure of the correct course of action having experienced adverse reactions to medications. We did the best we could, but for me it seemed lacking, a small drop into an ocean of need. I felt like I was issued a challenge.”
When Brock returned from that trip, he got back into the routine of his every day life.
“I would like to say I took immediate action, but I did not,” he says.
The turning point
Brock’s “wakeup call” came a year later when he became unemployed.
“For me, it was a put up or shut up moment and I had a choice to make,” he says. “Choose to pass by on the other side or go in a different direction.”
He chose a different direction, which led him to the Wallace State nursing program, where he was impressed by its “impressive NCLEX pass rates, a great reputation in the community and a financially affordable cost of education.”
Not having attended college in almost 30 years, Brock admits to facing some challenges in the enrollment process due to previous records that were now unavailable, but he says the faculty at Wallace State went “above and beyond” to help him with those records and in translating his work experience into curriculum requirements.
Brock says the faculty at Wallace State, both academic and in nursing, proved very helpful and willing to go the extra mile to make sure he succeeded. He says he’s impressed that even after two years some of his first instructors on campus call him by name and ask about his progress.
Brock continued his mission work while completing his studies at Wallace State. One of the missions he went on was to Jalapa, Guatemala, where the group he works with, Four Friends International, was building its first health clinic.
The clinic is about half a mile from the city trash dump, he says. When the trucks come to dump things, the poor people will go search through the dump for things to eat, use or sell.
“So we were there one day and there was a lady that had just had a baby, that baby was about 20 days old, and while she was looking through the dump, she had put the baby in a cardboard box, so that was the baby’s bed, this cardboard box,” he said. She’d placed the baby in the shade of a tree and within her site as she searched through the dump.
Having just completed his OB/Peds rotation, Brock says he examined the child, who seemed healthy. They told the mother about the clinic so she could get help there when she needed it.
“It’s somewhat surreal,” he says of the situation that was in stark contrast to what he’d just experienced in an area hospital. “It’s heartbreaking, especially when you’ve just done clinicals and you see the facilities we have here. But at the same time, that lady was doing everything she knew how to provide for that baby, and the baby was safe.”
Brock plans to continue with his mission work as a nurse and as he continues toward his goal to become a nurse practitioner.
“It isn’t without some fear that I, as a 50-year-old man, will once again enter the workforce as a new graduate this year,” he says. “However, I know that the faculty and curriculum at Wallace State have prepared me to achieve my potential and given me the basic ability to fulfill Jesus’ command to ‘Go and do the same.’ Maybe I too can be a Good Samaritan.”
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