Indjie Clerisma had always wanted to go to college, ever since she came to America with her family from Haiti, but as a full-time caretaker for her disabled mother, it was easy to push her dreams to the side. Luckily, Indjie’s mother was not about to let that happen.
As soon as Indjie graduated from high school, her mother told her she needed to keep pushing forward with a job or school. Indjie tried a phlebotomy program but dropped out due to a lack of support. Videos about Florida Career College kept creeping up on her social media, and in 2021, she decided to check it out. She was drawn to the Dental Assistant program at the Hialeah campus.
“Dental found me — I didn’t find dental,” she said. “Ever since I was little, ever since I came to America, I wanted to be an anesthesiologist. I always saw myself as a doctor but not dental. That is new … It was something I never really put myself into but every single day you go into class, you learn something new.”
Indjie needed something that would capture her attention. She had struggled with dyslexia but more than anything, she worried about her mom.
“My mother is definitely my third best friend,” Indjie said. “God is my first best friend. My dad is my second. He unfortunately passed away when I was 10 years old, but he is forever in my heart. My mom is my third best friend. When she came to America, she had the option to go to school or stay at home and take care of me because I was only six years old. She chose me over her education. I admired her for that.”
In 2016, Indjie’s mother suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed.
“It had a toll on me,” Indjie said. “It came to the point where I have to be the one who helps her shower, feeds her. I became the mother, and she became the daughter. Even though she saw the changes and knew the changes we needed to make, we didn’t let that stop us. She would wake me up every morning, pushes me to do better, she just keeps it going. It was definitely challenging (going back to school) but I believe in my heart and my mother believes in me. We both believe in God, so we trusted God. I was going to take this chance, take this risk.”
Throughout the program, Indjie struggled with transportation get to class, keeping her job and caring for her mother, but she kept her mind focused on the future.
“Indjie was very motivated because her aspirations were beyond becoming a dental assistant,” said Shirley Gittens, Indjie’s instructor. “She had long-term and short-term goals that were achievable, and I encouraged her to follow her dreams.”
Indjie was able to graduate and hopes to continue her education.
“Doctor Clerisma has a really nice sound to it,” she said. “I keep telling myself that. When I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, I tell myself that. I say, ‘Good morning Doctor Clerisma.’ I have 10 years of school left but I believe I’m going to become a doctor. That’s what I’m working for. People say faith without works is dead, but works without faith is also dead.”