With her Meridian Community College Health Care Assistant certificate proudly displayed in her home, Meridian resident Jennifer Martin said, “it still takes me by storm to see the certificate with my name on it.”
At 34, Martin is no stranger to life’s storms and turbulent times. She also knows being a victim is not an option. “When you step out on faith and quit allowing negative words affect your positive mood, man, you can move mountains,” she said.
By being around others who encouraged her, especially MCC Adult Basic Education and Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills (MI-BEST) personnel, Martin is on her way to a bright future. “MCC has been by far the best place I could make my start,” she said.
In 2002, while she was in her senior year of high school, Martin gave birth to a daughter. “She was born with health issues that kept her in the hospital more than at home, Martin said, “So, I’ve seen Metro Ambulance more times than I can count.” A comment from her daughter has remained with Martin. “She said, “since you had me, you really haven’t been able to do anything with your life.’ And my reply to her was if I had to do it all over again, I’d make the same choice,” Martin said.
Her oldest, though, died in 2012.
Overwhelming grief led her to a very low point but she thanks God for bringing her back to her “right mind.” “I said to myself, ‘get yourself together to the point where you can be better.’ I didn’t do it myself; I had a strong belief system in God.”
Martin said she felt the need to pay back those who helped her child.
She enrolled in MCC’s Adult Education Program but was nervous about going back to school. The help and attention she gained from staffers and classmates eased the anxiety and she earned her GED. “I finished and got my GED – which I am very proud of because it doesn’t matter which age you stop. It’s where you begin and finish,” she said.
Martin wasn’t ready to conclude her educational pursuits. She then learned of the opportunities from MCC staffers of one MI-BEST program offerings: The training to become a Certified Nurse Assistant. “The staff members are here to help you, to provide the tools that you need. It’s on you to pick them up and use them,” said Martin.
She admitted she was hesitant to pursue a career as a Certified Nurse Assistant because of her daughter’s death; however, she decided she could become a CNA and work in a nursing home. “I love older people,” Martin said.
“You have to have compassion. Yes, you are going to get paid, but that’s not the bigger part of the picture. You can make a difference in life,” Martin said.
With the drive to help others, Martin enrolled in the Emergency Medical Technician program and is now working on her preliminaries for the MCC Paramedic Technology Program all while working part-time for an ambulance company and a convenience store. “I’m pushing hard because I have children. But I have people who have stuck out their necks to see me get a full scholarship.”
Becoming a paramedic, too, in a sense would help to pay back those people who helped her child. “Plus, I like helping people. You have to have special consideration within yourself to really see another person’s need and try to meet it.”
Others see that quality in her. “Jennifer is the epitome of an ideal student,” said Jennifer Whitlock, MCC Adult Education director at Meridian Community College. “She has had so many adversities throughout her educational journey, but she has kept going,” Whitlock said.
Whitlock added that Martin is grateful to the College staff – especially the Adult Education Division – “but we are grateful that she allowed us to go through this journey with her,” Whitlock said.
“She is truly a beacon of light, and we know she will shine even brighter as she continues to move forward,” Whitlock said.
And as Martin continues to learn and aspires to finish with her paramedic studies in 2020. She’s also eager to ask others, “what are you doing to make a difference?”