My GTCC Story: Stephanie Jarrell

Published on: June 20, 2018
Stephanie Jarrell (’18) seized the opportunity to return to school after 15 years to achieve her dream of becoming a registered nurse.


Stephanie Jarrell (’18) lives by the same rule that she teaches her children: hard work and dedication always pays off, and giving up is never an option.

As a single mom, her three children have been an integral part of her journey in becoming a registered nurse.

“I had my children at Women’s Hospital,” she explains. “I was interested in the nurse techs that helped me with things like bathing the baby and taking her blood pressure. I found out they were Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), and they shared with me that I would only have to go to school for 12 weeks to become one myself.”

Following the birth of her second child, Stephanie completed the necessary courses and soon began work as a CNA. Working alongside nurses every day and hearing their stories heightened her interest in nursing school, but her children were still young and she decided to wait.

A few challenging years followed. She went through a painful divorce and had found joy working in property management when the company was sold. Everyone lost their jobs, including Stephanie. She seized the opportunity.

“Something in me said to go back to school,” she says. "When I set my mind to something, it is pretty hard to change it."

Stephanie enrolled in GTCC's nursing program in fall 2016 and while working full time as a CNA at High Point Regional. "It kept me motivated to be around other nurses," she added. "When I got into nursing school, I already had confidence working with people and knew how to communicate with the nurses. It made it so much easier for me.”

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. She ran into trouble with her Anatomy and Physiology class and faced a failing grade – something she never anticipated.

“I went in thinking I was going to kill the class,” she shares. “I studied hard…at least I thought I knew how to study. Back then, I thought just reading over the notes would be enough.”

She sought out her biology professor, Jeremy Creech, and was planning to withdraw from the course due to her performance. He had another idea.

“He encouraged me not to quit, and said I should keep coming to the class and listening to his lectures,” she remembers. “I asked him how I could get an A in the class, and he told me to study the material as if I were going to teach the class. From that point forward, I studied to understand it completely. If I could explain it to my kids then I knew the material.”

When she retook the course the following semester, she scored a 94 on her first exam and never looked back.

Stephanie walked away from the experience with more than a new set of study skills. She realized her passion for teaching. As a SPARK leader at GTCC, she helped other students work through the difficult concepts taught in Anatomy and Physiology.

“Sometimes you have those moments with a student where the light bulb really comes on, and it is such a good feeling,” she says. “Being a SPARK instructor and tutor cultivated a love of teaching in me."

She also served on an advisory committee to help bridge the gap between the nursing program and prospective employers. One of her most cherished experiences as a student was representing GTCC as a student ambassador.

“Being a student ambassador has by far been the most amazing experience,” she says. “I’ve been able to tell my ‘why’ story while giving campus tours, and connecting with prospective students and their families. It has been such an honor.”

The recent graduate will start her nursing career in the place where it all began, Women’s Hospital. She’ll be working in maternal child residency and begins in August. Long-term, she aspires to get a master’s degree in nursing education and combine her passions for teaching and nursing.

Her outstanding academic achievement while at GTCC earned Stephanie the North Carolina Community College System’s Academic Excellence Award, an honor given to one student at each of the 58 North Carolina community colleges. Being recognized for her hard work motivated Stephanie and reminded her why she began her journey.

“You sacrifice so much, especially as a parent. To see it all come together and have your kids watch makes you realize the sacrifices were worth it. Receiving this award helped me see that it’s not the end…it’s the beginning. If I can do this, I can do anything.” Back to All Articles