When Antoinette Fitzgerald first heard about Akron Children’s Career Launch program from her mother, she thought it sounded too good to be true.
“She sent me an article she found about the program from the news,” said Antoinette.
“Although I was very skeptical because it sounded too good to be true, I applied the same night because I had already been accepted to Kent State and was trying to wrap my head around how I would pay for school.”
The 37-year-old mom of two had been working as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) for 9 years in nursing homes, doctor’s offices and hospitals before deciding to return to school.
“I’ve wanted to become a nurse since I was a little girl,” said Antoinette. “My coming into the world story is what inspired me to want to care for others. I was born prematurely, weighing just 1 lb, 12 ounces. My mother was told I wouldn’t likely survive.”
After her own daughter was a patient at Akron Children’s, she decided it was a place she would like to work.
“My daughter contracted necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) when she was born and had 3 surgeries before she turned 1. I didn’t know if she would make it,” said Antoinette. “Dr. Todd Ponsky and the nurses in the NICU in Akron were amazing. It was their care and support that made me consider a career in pediatric nursing. The thought of being able to be a nurse to someone who is going through what I went through as a mom is awesome.”
A typical day in the Career Launch program for Antoinette depended on the semester but generally it consisted of her regular mom duties in addition to full-time school and work.
“Due to school and the program I had to change jobs to accommodate my work and school schedules, but between my job, my teachers and my family we made it work, having a strong support system is key” said Antoinette. “I also had to meet over the phone or virtually with my Career Launch manager every 2 weeks.
“What I liked most about the program was the financial help because it removed that barrier and made it so all I had to focus on was school and my children,” she added.
Antoinette also grew close to Patrice Russell, program manager of Career Launch.
“She always made herself available,” said Antoinette. “She has been my shoulder and ears throughout this journey. When life happened and I thought I wouldn’t see this through, she was encouraging. I gained family in her. This program was a blessing to me and without it I would not be here today.”
After completing a year-long LPN to ADN (associate degree in nursing) bridge program at KSU, Antoinette began working at Akron Children’s Beeghly campus as a float nurse in July. She became the hospital’s very first Career Launch graduate in the ADN track.
“I get the opportunity to work on several different units,” said Antoinette. “I get to see a variety of patients and situations that will in turn make me a more well-rounded nurse.”
With plans to return to school to pursue her BSN, Antoinette is grateful to Akron Children’s for the support they gave her from start to finish.
“It’s hard work but the reward at the finish line is amazing,” she said. “I love that Career Launch helped me achieve a long-time goal and advance my future.”
Ready to launch your own career? Learn more about the Career Launch enrollment process here.