Finding Refuge in a New State and a New Career
When Christal Harris-Mason was laid off due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she took it as a sign to change her life.
“Upon getting here I had a lot to think about,” she said. “I was confined to the house for so long and I needed to think about where to go. Being in the medical field was always a dream of mine. I was a young mom, so I raised six children. Very young. My children always came first. I felt like their needs were more important at the time. When I got to Houston, I was looking, and Florida Career College came up. It fell in my lap. I was like why not?”
Christal immediately fell in love with the program.
“I love to give love and I love to help,” she said. “I thought about the countless times I’ve been at the doctor’s or taken my children to the doctor and I’ve had some bad MATs and some not-so-good nurses and I would always say ‘we need more people who love.’ I also had some amazing MATs and amazing nurses and I’ve always wanted to be a part of that. When you come into an office or see a doctor, I want you to have an experience of feeling that someone cares. I love to help, and I love to express love and joy.”
Her love took her far as she managed to graduate from the program with a perfect 4.0 GPA and was referred for employment through a doctor at her externship site.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “It felt amazing to walk across the stage, knowing I made the highest honors. I’ve done what a lot of people didn’t think I would be able to do. I’ve done what I didn’t think I would be able to do. It surpassed what other people thought my life would be. In the beginning, I thought I couldn’t do it. In the end I’ve done it.”
‘NOT GOING TO GIVE UP’
Despite her eventual success, on her first day of classes, Christal was nervous about being the oldest member of the class. Most of the students were younger than her children.
“This transition was not easy for me,” she said. “I’m 52-years-old so I felt like I’m old… I’m here in a classroom with all these young people. I felt like I couldn’t do this.”
It took an honest conversation with her instructor for Christal to stay focused and remind her why she started the program to begin with.
“I wanted to follow my dream and I wanted to show my children and grandchildren to never give up on yourself no matter what life brings you; your past does not define you,” Christal said. “You can accomplish anything you put your mind to. If I can do this, then they would know never to give up. She looked at me and said ‘So, you’re not going to give up.’”
“I tend to apply a little pressure to my students, but she did not waver,” said Kapresha Johnson, an instructor for the Medical Assistant Technician Program at FCC Houston. “She came out on top. She was always consistent. She would always keep her word. She was shaky with her skills at first, but she would come into the lab almost every Friday to make sure her skills were sharp. She was the student that was always willing to go above and beyond to do what she needed.”
NO SLOWING DOWN
After her externship with a cardiologist, Christal was feeling excited about the skills she had gained but she was disappointed to learn the office didn’t have any open positions. To her surprise, her hard work had not gone unnoticed. Another doctor in the office referred her to an associate and she was quickly offered a job. Her family couldn’t be prouder.
“My children have always thought I’m the strongest woman in the world, but I think they’re very partial,” she said. “My grandchildren love it and they look at me and think it’s so cool that Grandma went back to school and is going to school.”
Christal isn’t slowing down now. She has big plans to continue her education and ultimately become an RN.
“Everybody has their own experience. Mine has been amazing,” she said. “I would encourage anyone in my situation to never give up on yourself. Young, older—just never give up on yourself. You can accomplish anything you put your mind to. FCC is a great school that has great people that are there to help you and care about your education. I was very fortunate to have just that.”