Rachael Stultz was divorced with five small children at home when she decided to enroll at Mendocino College. Raised in Laytonville, she had already spent four years in the Army, operated a successful licensed daycare, and tried various jobs that simply didn't cut the mustard for her life as a single parent.
"Exciting and frightening" finding herself back at school after 13 years, Rachael "developed a deep under-standing of herself" at Mendocino College, enjoyed meeting the diversity of people and felt both challenged and encouraged by her classes, teachers and peers.
When she discovered she could not use her GI bill since it had expired after ten years, she didn't know if she would make it. Until she discovered the myriad of programs the College has to offer. "Without financial aid, EOPS, Calworks and Work Study my education would not have been possible." Rachael will never forget the "pats on my back that put a smile on my face and the confidence to keep striving" she received from the Financial Aid staff, notably Jacque Bradley, Nancy Heth, and Tola Levinson. "They kept me on track and helped me see how far I really had come."
Teachers Rachael will never forget are Tonya Sparks (English) and Rachel Donham and Sue Blundell (Science). Tonya was her first teacher and English terrified her. "She was so warm and encouraging, yet she pushed me beyond what I felt my abilities were." Both Sue and Rachel's doors were always open, and were "extremely encouraging academically and personally … both of them offered insightful guidance and even a shoulder to cry on when I needed one."
Finally, her counselor, Merie Holl, was "so wonderful … always warm, welcoming, never rushing me, open to my opinion and needs, and thoroughly checking and double-checking my ed plan. I value and respect all the advice she gave me."
Though Rachael found so many willing to help, she also found, "As many people as there are to encourage you, there seems to be another waiting to discourage you. Do not let anyone or anything deter you from reaching your goals."
Balancing family, finances, children, work and school were major obstacles for Rachael, but she learned to use her fears to challenge herself and gained confidence when facing and overcoming them. And, in the end, it's worth it. "It is an indescribable feeling having your children watch with pride as their mother graduates and succeeds."
Rachael's advice to other students? "Set a goal, establish a support system—both at home and on campus—do not be afraid to ask for help, stay determined, be focused, and develop time management skills!"
Now that Rachael has her A.A. and has been accepted into the RN program, her next goal is to graduate as an RN in 2014 and begin working. Eventually she wants to finish courses at Sonoma for her BSN, and possibly one day obtain a Masters' degree in midwifery.
What a wonderful midwife she would be.
Mendocino College Student Success Story
Date of Interview: July 12, 2012
Written by Christine Mullis