Wed, May 23, 2018 11:49 AM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue

Dogged determination pays off for Magoffin mother of three

Myra Howard with husband, Jeremy, and their three children. (click for larger version)
11/23/2007 - by Sandra Saad

Big Sandy Community and Technical College Faculty

"Mom, I'm pregnant."

It was a routine, mid-winter shopping trip to Wal-Mart in 1997 when Benetta Patrick of Magoffin County noticed that her 95-pound, high school sophomore was going to the bathroom — a lot.

Her 16-year-old daughter, Myra Ann, and her daughter's 16-year-old boyfriend, Jeremy Howard, had been dealing with the issue in a two-fold manner: they had responsibly visited the health department for a check-up and prenatal vitamins, but they just didn't know how to tell their families. At six months pregnant, however, Myra Ann couldn't hide the truth any longer. When she finally admitted the pregnancy to her mother, there in the middle of Wal-Mart, Benetta was so shocked by the news that she abandoned the shopping trip, cart and all, and headed to the car and home with her daughter in tow.

One month later, Myra Ann and Jeremy were married and two months later they were new parents. The 16-year-olds took their responsibility seriously. They both dropped out of school, Myra Ann to care for the newborn and Jeremy to take a job in construction in order to support his young family financially.

Myra Ann began the process to secure her GED but it was going to take a while. Five months after giving birth to her first child, she found out she was already pregnant with her second. Myra Ann, however, never abandoned her educational goals and, whenever possible, she pursued her studies at the Mayo Campus of Big Sandy Community and Technical College. There she obtained her Certified Nurse's Assistant (CNA) credentials in 2002, just before the birth of her third child. Together, she and Jeremy managed to make things work. Myra Ann worked nights at an area nursing home, working six nights on - two off, while Jeremy worked days in a trucking job. Between the two of them, they always managed to be there for the start and end to hectic school days for their three children, homework, housework, meal preps, and after-school activities.

Despite her busy schedule and full-time job, Myra Ann still had other educational aspirations. She had always wanted to be a nurse. With Jeremy working day shift and all of her kids in school, Myra Ann enrolled in college classes at the Prestonsburg Campus of Big Sandy Community and Technical College. During the 16-week fall and spring semesters she carried a 12-hour, four course load and during the summer months she took classes during the four-week and eight-week summer sessions. Myra Ann notes, with a grimace and shudder, that two of her toughest courses were taken during the summer: 16-weeks worth of medical microbiology taken during an eight-week summer session and 16-weeks worth of Developmental Psychology taken during an intensive four-week summer session. Her expression changes into a serene smile, however, when she notes that she got As in both classes.

The truth is that Myra Ann has gotten As in most of her classes. With a 3.5 grade-point average, she is an example of what can be accomplished with dedication, determination and a tremendous amount of hard work. In addition to her course work, she completed training in phlebotomy and was selected as the Magoffin County Head Start Parent of the Year in 2007. She was also named a National Science Award winner.

Myra Ann gives her husband a lot of credit for helping to make her accomplishments possible. "Jeremy's awesome," she said. "If I'm vacuuming, he's washing dishes," and they both sit down with their children after dinner to help them with their homework. Myra Ann did most of her studying after the kids were in bed, but if she had a hard test coming up, then Jeremy took care of the kids himself, freeing up time for his wife to focus on her studies. "If that's what you want to do, don't stop," Jeremy advised her when times were tough.

Myra Ann also had the support and encouragement of a special mentor on the Mayo Campus. Linda Dyer, who works in the testing center at Mayo, was appointed as Myra Ann's mentor when she took an introduction to college course. Even after the course was over, Dyer stayed in touch, serving as Myra Ann's personal support and resource if she was unsure about anything during her educational pursuits.

In turn, Myra Ann has been an inspiration to her family as she persisted in her studies. Her two oldest children, Quentin, 9, and Morgann, 8, students at Salyersville Grade School, recognize and appreciate their mom's hard work in pursuing her education, while five-year-old Trevor is just focused on his own career goal: He wants to be a cowboy. With her own success, Myra Ann also repeatedly encouraged her husband to pursue his GED. He resisted her urgings for years, but finally gave in only to pass the GED pretest and test with ease. Now he is contemplating future educational possibilities for himself as well.

At this point, Myra Ann has completed all of her required coursework, including nursing prep classes and taking the ACT. She is now submitting all of her documentation for application to the nursing program at Big Sandy Community and Technical College. After years of hard work, she is finally prepared to enter into the field of study that has always been her passion.

Despite her successes, Myra Ann readily admits that it has not been easy. One of the toughest things she deals with now is when people say, "I can't believe you're still in school!" without understanding all of the effort and sacrifices that have gotten her to this point. "When the kids are sick, you're working and you have your studies to do, it's hard," Myra Ann admitted. "But," she quickly follows up, "it will be worth it when the time comes. You have to work for what you want," she continues, "and you have to realize that it's going to take time and decisions are not always easy. The good comes with the bad."

Pursuing a nursing degree is not an easy task. It too will carry its own challenges and require its own sacrifices. But if the decade since Myra Ann made that desperate confession to her mom in the middle of Wal-Mart has shown anything, it has proven that Myra Ann Howard — wife, mother, employee, school volunteer AND student — has the vision, intelligence, patience and dogged determination to accomplish any goal.

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