Two years ago, Isabella Morgeson found herself not only grappling with the realities of the pandemic, but also living in a domestic violence shelter with her three young children. With not many options, she needed a job and a way to a better life. She discovered both of those at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College (ECTC).
Morgeson now is a work study student in the college’s financial aid office, studying medical information technology (MIT). She tells herself not to let fear influence all her decisions.
“Starting over was really scary to think about but I had to just take a leap of faith,” she said.
Staff at the shelter encouraged Morgeson to reach out to ECTC Work Study Coordinator Ann Knopp to learn more about her options. Work study was an opportunity for her to both work and take classes, with the flexibility she needed for her family.
“I met Ann and it just all felt right. She’s been involved and supportive in my experience here,” Morgeson said. “When I first came to ECTC, the TRIO Student Support Services helped me develop a plan and get acclimated to the college environment. Teresa Brown from the accessibility center has also been incredibly supportive of my needs as a student.”
Different than her first college experience, Morgeson said she’s found that her interactions with people at ECTC goes beyond the classroom.
“After I graduated high school I attended a four-year university. Two weeks in I just felt lost and didn’t really have any support so I came back home,” she said. “I’ve experienced support at ECTC that I’ve not had before, and people here really show that they want me to succeed.”
In the financial aid office, Morgeson assists students with completing the FAFSA, files and organizes for counselors in the office, and answers general questions for walk-ins.
“I hadn’t worked an office job before,” Morgeson said. “I’ve always worked a factory or fast food job and didn’t know I would enjoy the administrative environment or be able to do it well, but my time in the financial aid office has been great and I’ve already learned so much.”
As a MIT student, Morgeson said she’ll be able to combine her new enjoyment for administrative processes with assisting patients with their needs like scheduling appointments and organizing records. She’ll also be able to provide a stable homelife for her children with reliable work hours and good pay.
“My youngest is two and when I’m doing homework, he’ll come sit in my lap and start repeating what’s in my instructional videos,” Morgeson said. “It’s hard, but it’s inspiring in a way because I know they won’t grow up like I did.”
The life she’s building for her children and overcoming a challenging situation is her motivation to press on, she said
“I’m learning about my own perseverance and determination, and I hope my kids learn that they shouldn’t let anyone put them in a box, Morgeson said. “They can accomplish anything they want – from changing the world to just having a stable life.”
Morgeson will complete her associate degree in MIT in spring 2023. Her advice to others comes from perspective built on life experience.
“Your past doesn’t define you. You can do what you want with your life if you put your mind to it and really commit,” she said.
This article originally appeared here.