Student story: Third time’s the charm

By Andrea Byerly

“I can’t do this; it’s not for me.”

These were the words that Goldie Whaley uttered to herself not once but twice while attempting college. Whaley graduated from Cleveland High School in 2011 and enrolled at Cleveland State Community College that fall. After a hard class, she was discouraged and dropped out. In 2016, she decided to try it again, but dropped out again.

Now, Whaley will graduate from Cleveland State with a degree in medical assisting this May.

In 2021, Whaley had two young daughters and worked at home for a debt collection agency. “I was talking on the phone all day, and I knew that I didn’t want to do this for this rest of my life. I want to be more interactive with people.” She decided to try the medical assisting program at Cleveland State. With transcripts full of incompletes and failing grades, Whaley wondered if she could make it work this time.

Whaley decided she had to give it 110% for her daughters. She received financial aid and started classes in fall 2021. Becoming part of college life was important to Whaley this third time, so she joined the Pages Book Club on campus. She serves as treasurer for the Medical Assisting Student Association (MASA) and meets regularly with a lunch group of class friends.

“When you see my transcripts, there are all these years of incompletes; now, I’ve made the President’s List with a 4.0 GPA every semester. My kids are the biggest motivation in all of it,” said whaley. “I knew that I had to do it different; I want my kids to do it different. I ask questions now; I’ve come up with study mechanisms and keep everything organized. I am really proud of myself because I wanted to quit a few times again, but I love Cleveland State. They have been very supportive, and there are so many resources that I didn’t know about before.”

In August 2022, Whaley inquired about the non-credit phlebotomy class at the college, but she did not qualify for the grant funding on this class. The continuing education department connected Goldie to the Rural Health Association (RHA). This organization provided grant funding for the phlebotomy class along with additional funds for uniforms, food and gas. She earned her Certified Phlebotomy Technician credential that will complement her medical assisting degree.

Beth Keylon, RHA assistant director of workforce development, said “The Rural Health Association was honored to sponsor and support Goldie Whaley on her journey to further her education of becoming a Certified Medical Assistant. Goldie far exceeded her requirements and expectations and earned the Rockstar title at RHA.”

Starting her final semester, Whaley will work as an intern for a medical facility and prepare for the Certified Medical Assisting (CMA) exam in April. After graduation, she hopes to work as a medical assistant in Cleveland and perhaps continue her education in healthcare.

“Goldie is a great student; she has a good mindset, a strong work ethic and has the professionalism needed to be a successful medical assistant,” said Karmon Kingsley, Cleveland State medical assisting program director and associate professor.

Whaley provided this advice for anyone thinking about going back to college: “If you start it, finish it. If it’s on your mind, it’s on your mind for a reason. Listen to it and give it 110%. You’ll be happy once you do. I am definitely, definitely happy that I started back again and kept going.”

This article originally appeared here.

Andrea Byerly

is the public & media relations manager at Cleveland State Community College in Tennessee.