Becoming a nurse was always a dream for Stephanie Ritchey. After overcoming some life challenges, she finally made that dream a reality by graduating from RACC. “Learning the art and science of nursing at RACC taught me compassionate care, efficient time management, and adherence to the principles of safe practice.”
Stephanie graduated with honors from Daniel Boone High School, continued her education as a biology major at Villanova University, and became a patient care technician. She relocated to Berks County and decided to continue her education. Staying in her community was important to her when choosing a school, but location wasn’t the only reason she selected RACC. “RACC’s reputation spoke for itself. I heard that the RACC nursing program was rigorous and challenging but would provide a strong base for my nursing career. Plus, attending RACC afforded me the experience of performing my clinical hours in locations where I could potentially work after graduation.”
Stephanie was hired at Penn State Health St. Joseph before graduating RACC with an AAS in nursing. St. Joseph was one of the hospitals where Stephanie performed her clinicals while a student at RACC. Now as an RN, she enjoys being able to teach the current RACC students in their clinical rotations at St. Joseph. “When I was a student many of my nurses were former RACC students. Now I’ve assumed the role of taking RACC students under my wing. It felt really good to once be on the receiving end of that mentorship, and now be a mentor myself…I love that feeling.”
The education Stephanie received at RACC not only gave her the knowledge to guide students, but it also prepared her to become a very successful nurse. “I learned important time management, safety skills, and to be accountable for my actions. The program was a process of learning to think, act and react like a nurse. My professors taught me how to think differently, critically.” Stephanie has several RACC professors to thank, Kathy Evans, Karen Hartman, and Mihaela Pendos, for challenging and inspiring her to think, learn and teach in new ways. But of all of her teachers, Professor Joan Zupicick made the biggest impact on Stephanie. “Professor Joan taught me about the kind of nurse I aspire to be. Her faith in me makes me want to be not just a better nurse, but a better human being. She is with me, guiding me during every shift I work.”
Stephanie is currently working toward her bachelor’s degree at Chamberlain University and has started the application to be a volunteer disaster relief nurse for the American Red Cross. Stephanie’s nursing career is just getting started thanks to her commitment to hard work and the educational foundation she established while at RACC. “The experiences and relationships you make at RACC form the foundation for a successful career, whatever your path.”
For Twila Fisher, RACC was just the right environment to developing the kind of tenacity she would acquire throughout her years in college. “My time at RACC prepared me for my career by reinforcing the drive to work harder than I had before, to think outside of the box, and to embrace people from all walks of life.”
After graduating from Lancaster Mennonite High School, Twila moved to Mexico City and then to Miami before moving back to Pennsylvania and settling in Berks County. At that time, Twila put her education and career on hold to begin a family. When her four daughters were all in school, Twila enrolled in school herself at RACC. “I pursued RACC for myself for the same reason I recommend it to people of all ages: location and affordability.”
While enrolled at RACC, Twila received the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Transfer Scholarship which allowed her to pursue her undergraduate degree at Columbia University. “Nothing seemed insurmountable after pushing through the commute to Manhattan’s upper west side twice a week for two and half years and the academic rigor of Columbia.” During this time, Twila received a second scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation allowing to continue her studies. She finished her graduate courses in eighteen months at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government.
During her time at RACC, Twila took advantage of the excellent student life organizations to help her gain more out of education. She served as the president for the Student Government Association and was involved in the Student Leadership Program. She also had many influential teachers that were encouraging forces in her education. She says their guidance and teachings have stuck with her to this day. “Dr. Donna Singleton inspired me to explore my potential in academic excellence, Stephanie Anderson taught me to write with purpose, and Dr. John Morgan challenged me to explore my belief systems and to dream big.”
Twila is currently the director of community and economic development at The Hill School. She serves on six different boards and committees including the Tri-County Area Chamber of Commerce, Barrio Alegria in the City of Reading, and an advisory board for the Olivet Boys and Girls Club in Pottstown. Twila says that sometimes people say to her, “you must be so smart since you went to Columbia and Penn.” She replies, “I’m not smarter than anybody else, I just work hard. Like anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it and RACC taught me that at a critical transition in my life.”
Pam Gockley had a difficult start to her education. After being expelled from high school, Pam sought guidance and support, luckily she found RACC. “My education at RACC was far beyond the books, tests and reports. The spirit I found in the students, faculty and staff was far more inspirational than the diploma.”
While in high school, Pam struggled with learning and was placed in special education classes. Later in life, Pam discovered she was undiagnosed dyslexic and the special education classes were the worst place for her as a kid. “It was in these classes, that I was bullied, and the school lacked the ability to deal with what I was going through. This is what ultimately led to me getting expelled.”
When Pam first enrolled at RACC she quickly learned that she had a lot of catching up to get her education to the college level, but she admits this is one of the best things that could have ever happened to her. “The faculty and staff at RACC took the time make sure I was prepared to go onto the college courses. That was huge for me because it was the first time someone in education made the effort to understand where I was academically and actually helped me through the process.”
After graduating from RACC and Kutztown University with a degree in Business Management, Pam started her own business and has continued to be an entrepreneur for 22 years. During that time Pam has had 13 for-profit startups and more recently, one non-profit. “After 22 years of entrepreneurship I feel that it’s finally time that I give back and help kids that are in the same position as me and even much more violent situations, including gun violence.”
Pam’s recent start-up is called The Camel Project and is based on Pam’s book, “Not All Camels Are in The Desert.” Pam wrote the book to share her high school experience with students, and how she overcame the problems. “My mission is to help kids understand that first, it’s not their fault; second, they are not alone; and third, it happens to more people than most realize.”
The first initiative of The Camel Project is a stop bullying program that helps kids learn about self-awareness, self-confidence, and how to create a great support system; all of which Pam was lacking in high school. For Pam, RACC was the launching point to understanding how an educational institution can help a student become a better version of themselves. “At RACC, there was a sense of family, security and encouragement I never knew before. I totally credit RACC for helping me throughout my education, for showing me what should have been done and giving me the inspiration to go out and help others.”
For Joshua Riojas, RACC was just the beginning of his successful journey. “My professional work experience and education all started at RACC, and the school deserves a tremendous amount of credit in how I have progressed through life professionally.”
Joshua graduated from Conrad Weiser with no immediate plans for a career. He knew a four-year college didn’t suit him, so he chose RACC for his education. “I wanted to keep costs down and since I didn’t take my SATs seriously, I considered community college as my best option.”
While at RACC, Joshua received a Foundation Scholarship which encouraged him to earn more than one degree. Joshua graduated from RACC with two Associate Degrees in Web Site Development and Computer Technology.
One of Joshua’s instructors, Marty Kelly, who is also RACC’s webmaster, gave him an opportunity to work as a work-study in the web department. “Over the years of employment at RACC, Marty was a wonderful supervisor who made every effort to see me thrive academically and professionally. People like Marty are the reason why a student should go to RACC.” Marty not only encouraged and supported Joshua while he was at RACC, but they stayed in touch after graduation and continue to be close friends.
Joshua directly credits RACC for providing him with a pathway not only for transferring to a four-year college but also for gaining employment opportunities. “My education at RACC enabled me to acquire part-time work at the college. Plus, it was instrumental in obtaining an IT Internship at Morgan Corporation, which continued a trickle effect as I transferred to PSU.” Joshua was able to leverage his work experience at RACC to get a web internship in the Marketing and Communications Research Department at Penn State. Joshua ultimately graduated from Penn State with Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Computer Science.
Joshua currently works at Cerner Corporation as a System Engineer and as an adjunct lecturer at Penn State, Harrisburg campus. Joshua’s immediate plans moving forward are to continue to explore fields within Computer Science, further his education with various IT/System Administrator certificates and focus on improving his lectures for his college classes.
Joshua feels that RACC was a turning point for him and continues to highly recommend RACC as a starting point for anyone looking to further their education. “RACC provides many dual admission opportunities that facilitate easy transfer of credits; and the classes, instructors and work-study programs help you calculate a trajectory for your career.”
Growing up in the foster care system, Missy Hassler faced some challenges, but she continually pushed forward. “It definitely taught me not to give up and not to wait for things to be handed to me - go out and get them yourself.” And now that’s exactly what she intends to do at RACC.
Missy graduated from Brandywine Heights in 2002 and dreamed of becoming a lawyer. “After high school, I received a certificate to become a legal secretary to get my foot in the door,” Missy stated, “but discovered I could make more money tending bar.”
It was not until Missy’s son was born that she realized it was time to find a different job. As she searched the classified ads, she realized that starting a career would be more difficult then she thought. She landed a job as a Member’s Specialist at the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, but also decided to start pursuing her dreams. “I’m at a point in my life where I can handle school, and work toward not only my future, but my son’s as well.”
Many friends referred Missy to RACC to continue her education. “RACC is full of community-minded individuals, right from the start in admissions to the faculty and students. My teachers are very supportive and my fellow students are friendly and kind. The overall atmosphere on the campus is pleasant.” Missy admits that she was nervous about enrolling and concerned about finances, but RACC’s streamlined application process and the knowledgeable financial aid department made it easy to follow.
RACC is already making a difference in her current position at the Chamber. The quality education she is receiving has made her more comfortable and well-versed in a business setting. “Confidence can only come with knowledge and that’s what RACC is providing me.”
Missy is majoring in Criminal Justice with the hopes of becoming a private detective. “I feel this is an excellent career choice and, not only do I think I’ll excel at it, but I think it will be helpful for my community as well.” For Missy, RACC is exactly what she needed to make her dreams come true. “I believe it’s never too late! If you have a dream, follow it and don’t stop until you see it come to fruition.”