EL DORADO, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — Chelsea Phillips received two surprises during her May of 2022 graduation ceremony. Phillips received the Florence Nightingale Award, which is South Arkansas Community College Betty Owen School of Practical Nursing’s highest honor, and the second surprise was her 12-year-old son telling her he was proud of her.

“It was was so sweet. I was in tears. I was like, ‘He’s been watching!’ Because at that age you just don’t know,” Phillips said. Phillips worked hard to show her two young sons that they should never give up on their dreams.

Although she wanted to be a nurse since high school, she went into the workforce after her high school graduation, working as a pharmacy technician at Walgreens. Then, she had to endure the death of her husband who died from stage IV colon cancer.

That’s what really pushed me. It’s my time. I watched the nurses take care of him, and it just really spoke to me because this is what I want to do.

Chelsea Phillips

Although Phillips started her collegiate career slowly by taking prerequisite courses and saving money for a few years, she was accepted into an evening nursing program in 2020. Phillips worked a full-time job and attended school as a single mother, which forced her to not pass her classes in her first semester.

After realizing she had to make sacrifices to become a nurse, Phillips worked and saved her money for approximately six months. Once she saved her money, she took a leave of absence from work with no pay to attend South Arkansas Community College’s one-year nursing program.

While at the college, Phillips learned about the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund which helped her pay for her school expenses and her household bills. For the remainder of 2022, Phillips will work and take two classes so she can apply and enroll in a registered program, which begins in January of 2023.

“A lot of people may be embarrassed or ashamed because they don’t feel like they should ask for help or feel like they can’t do it, but don’t be,” Phillips said.