Christine Bonaventure wasn’t sure about re-launching her career.
But after her divorce, the 40-year-old single parent wanted to get into nursing. However, she didn’t want to take on any loans because she was still paying back loans from her first degree in teaching.
She finally took the plunge, starting an associate’s degree at Wake Technical Community College in August 2014 with the help of a $1,000 Mature Woman’s Scholarship from the Cary Woman’s Club.
“Don’t wish. Get up and do it and see what can be done,” says Bonaventure of Cary.
“I waited a couple of years, and then all of sudden I just thought, ‘Let’s go ask these people what needs to be done, and then three months later I was in school,’” she said.
Wake Tech provides many resources for students, and Bonaventure took advantage of a program where students fill out one application and are screened against a variety of scholarships. The scholarship really made a difference for Bonaventure, who has two daughters, ages 11 and 15, and one son, age 6.
“It means that I don’t have to come up with the money,” says Bonaventure, who works as a substitute teacher. “It allows me to scale back on having to work so much.”
And Bonaventure works a lot. This past January, with some unexpected expenses, she wasn’t sure she could return – even with the Woman’s Club scholarship. But she didn’t want to lose it either by quitting.
She took a second job as a waitress at TGIFridays, but it meant long and hectic weeks when school was in session.
“My schedule consisted of waking up at 3 in the morning,” she says. “I would study from 3 until about 7 and get the kids up to school.
“I would go to school, and I was done with school at noon most days,” she said. “And then I would go subbing from 12:30 until about 4, and then leave straight from the school I was at to go work at the restaurant and not get home until 9 at night and start all over again the next morning.”
She credits her two older daughters with running things when she’s not there.
“My 15-year-old and 11-year-old are very helpful,” she says. “I can be up at 5 o’clock in the morning and go to clinicals at the hospital and know that everything’s going to be OK.”
The family has a dinner schedule and makes meals using a slow cooker. They start it the night before so dinner will be ready the next morning.
“So whoever comes in first, or if I pop in and need to go back out again, I can grab something to eat,” Bonaventure says.
When Bonaventure first started her program, she had a clear idea of where she wanted to end up – at Duke Hospitals working in anesthesia, but now she’s not so sure. She did a rotation working with kids dealing with mental health issues, and the experience really resonated with an experience she had a few weeks before she began school.
“Last summer, I actually had a breakdown and tried to commit suicide,” says Bonaventure. “It was really tough. But I was able to get through it. I saw the positive in it.”
Bonaventure felt she could connect with some of the children she on her rotation who also are struggling with mental health issues.
“I understand where they’re coming from,” she says. “Granted, I haven’t had even a quarter of some of the problems these kids have had at the ages of 8, 9, 10, and 11, thank God for that.
“But I understand how they’re feeling,” she said. “I understand how they feel abandoned; I understand how they think nobody loves them, nobody cares. I can connect with that. The more I learn, it just makes me really sad.”
So will she pursue a position in the mental health field?
“The mouth says ‘no.’ But every time I say that, my heart just kind of cringes,” she said. “Part of me is like, ‘I’ll use wherever I am to try to connect with people and get them help before they end up in a crises, but I really don’t know.’”
That’s one of the joys of learning – that she can figure it out along the way.
Bonaventure will graduate from Wake Tech in May 2016.