Orlando Student Seeks to Help Others Through Medical Assisting

It’s not easy starting a new career later in life, but after surviving years of domestic violence, Melissa Smith finally felt ready to start fresh, doing a job she felt passionate about.

“Stepping out on that limb was the biggest challenge of my life,” Melissa said. “Not only was I scared and nervous but I was determined to finish all my courses.”

Melissa felt like she had something to prove when she got to Florida Career College’s Orlando campus. She had spent years in abusive relationships while raising her children, but still managed to get them all through high school and enrolled in college. She had also cared for her parents after they were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Now, struggling to get the raise she felt she deserved from her current employer, it was her chance to do something for herself. She felt like her life experiences would be helpful in the medical field and decided to enroll in the Medical Assistant Technician program.

“I had to do everything on my own. I had no family support,” she said. “All my support came from perfect strangers or people I met who took me in as family. They didn’t make me feel any different. They made me feel like family. I always try to do the same for others.”

Right away, Melissa found a connection on the campus. After just a few months, she became an ambassador for the program.

“I stepped onto the campus at FCC and everyone was polite, very helpful, gave me all the information I needed,” she said. “I volunteered to be an ambassador because it’s good for people from the outside coming in to recognize that they will have the help that they need to achieve their goal, whatever it may be. I want them to know the teachers and the students are there to help them if they will reach out for help.”

Juggling work and school was not easy. There were times Melissa had to cut her work hours to fit her schooling in, but those who were close to her kept her motivated.

“I wanted to give up a lot of times, but my instructor told me, ‘You’ve got a B average. You better hang in there,’ ” she said. “My sister and my kids told me, ‘Don’t worry about the bills. Get your degree. It’s what you’ve always wanted in life. Just hang in there.’ ”

In the end, Melissa was able to get her diploma and was also inducted into the National Technical Honor Society. Her determination even inspired her youngest daughter to go back and finish a college degree.

“Words can’t even express how good that feels,” Melissa said. “I pushed them so hard in school. I know that they can do it, but life is hard out here, struggling to pay bills and keep yourself motivated. I can’t wait for graduation so I can celebrate with my classmates. Even with all the challenges, we did it. It’s a glorious feeling that can never be replaced with anything in life.”

“Melissa has faced several adversities and has not been able to pursue her goals. She put her children first and held off on what she wanted to do to ensure they had opportunities,” said Reneka Logan, associate director of Student Affairs at the Orlando campus. “Now that her children are adults, Melissa has pursued a career for herself. She has done exceptionally well, maintained an exceptional GPA, and stellar attendance. Melissa’s peers love her and, like myself, are rooting for her continued success.”

While Melissa was successful in finishing the program, her greatest success has come from finding herself.

“Domestic violence can cause low self-esteem and abandonment, but it takes a strong love for yourself to see that you are beautiful in God’s image and you can exceed above and beyond anyone’s perception of you,” Melissa said.