Ragena Ellis graphic

Loss of Her Daughter Pushes Tampa Student Forward

After losing her baby daughter, the only thing that could bring Ragena Ellis out of a depressive spiral was the goal of creating a better life for her surviving children.

Ragena had attended school before but life always seemed to have a way of getting in the way. She started and stopped several times. She was attending school when she was pregnant with her third child but ended up quitting, due to a difficult pregnancy and unstable living conditions. She was able to give birth, but her daughter passed away at 7 months old.

“Seeing her on the hospital bed broke me,” Ragena said. “Depression and anxiety took over me.”

The depression got so bad that Ragena even attempted suicide at one point.

“I almost succeeded, but I knew I needed to stay here for a reason” she said. “I needed to do something with my life. I needed to do it for my other kids.”

Several months later, Ragena started a small business in her daughter’s name, making custom t-shirts and tumblers, to keep her mind occupied. After more than a year of grieving, she knew she needed to make a change to provide a better life for her 13- and 9-year-old children. She had always had a desire to enter the medical field and wanted to show her children it was possible to start a career no matter what you’ve been through. She decided to enroll in the Medical Front Office and Billing program at Florida Career College in Tampa.

“I’m a computer geek. I like being on the computer,” Ragena said. “I knew I didn’t want to do the medical assistant job. I would rather sit at the computer and do what I do best.”

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This time going to school was different for Ragena. She had her children to think about and nothing was going to keep her from making them proud.

“She was one of my lead students,” said Michael Smith, Associate Instructor at the Tampa campus. “She always participated and jumped in to help students when they needed help. She demonstrated great leadership in the classroom. She always came in with a big, bubbly smile. All around she was just a really good student.”

Michael said he was aware of Ragena’s past but was also aware of how hard she worked to move past her personal struggles.

“She put it within herself to be motivated regardless of if she was having a bad day or not,” he said. “She was not going to accept that. She was going to make it a positive day.”

Ragena was able to stay on the honor roll for her entire time at FCC and finish her courses in March of 2022 and she completed an externship at a family medicine clinic

“It feels good to actually go to school and finish,” she said. “It’s a great accomplishment. My kids are proud of me. They tell me every day they are proud of me. It feels good.”

Ragena hopes her children can look to her as an example of someone who never gave up.

“Don’t give up and keep going,” she tells them. “Nothing is impossible.”