Samantha Istre - saving lives: My med education scholarship

Submitted 2022-08-05

My name is Samantha Istre. I am 34 years old, born & raised in Texas, but have resided in Louisiana since 2011. I have always dreamed of being a real nurse in the labor & delivery department.

Being that I graduated high school in Texas, I did not get the gracious benefit of the TOPS program that Louisiana is given. Without going into too much detail on my childhood & adolescent home-life, I will say I no longer lived with my parents by the time graduation came around, and rotated friends’ houses. I did enroll in college as a pre-nursing student in the fall after graduation, participated in clinical rounds at the local nursing home, and ultimately felt like I made the right decision jumping in without a stable residence.

Fast forward a few semesters - I realized that it was much easier said than done to work 12 hour shifts waiting tables & balancing on-campus classes - especially if your employer did not give you permission to leave due to being short-staffed. I changed my major in hopes achieve success at a faster rate & pursued diagnostic medical sonography. I distinctly remember excelling in the hands-on class & the instructor praising me in front of my peers frequently. I continued to work overtime to try to support living alone & also master college simultaneously; however, life did not pan out the way I had planned. The syllabus stated you could not miss more than two clinical days for the semester without receiving an automatic F on your transcript. I remember approaching my instructors office with tears in my eyes after having to miss that second time due to my employer. My instructor met me at the door with tears herself, and she expressed over and over again that she “had to stick to the syllabus policy despite her personal feelings” and that I “undoubtedly had an A in the class’…

I subconsciously carried that “F” in my mind very heavily. I knew in my heart I was an excellent student and that my performance did not reflect that letter grade. My self-esteem was crushed, as well as my motivation in other courses. Nevertheless, I did sign up for the same clinical course again. I sat on the very first row on the first day. The instructor immediately acknowledged me and praised my prior display of talent & skills in front of the newcomers. We moved on to discuss the syllabus & class policies. The instructor’s eyes locked with mine as she verbalized the absentee policy… “ you are allowed to miss three clinic days a semester without receiving an automatic F for the semester”. Without hesitation, she immediately in front of the entire class said “Sam, I am so very sorry that the policy changed from two absences after last semester, I genuinely apologize.” I fought back tears, nodded, and decided I would not let it stop me from pushing forward…until I received a financial aid denial correspondence that stated any financial aid applied for was automatically rejected due the previous semesters grades. The instructor and dean both held me as I cried in the hallway and had to drop all of my classes.

Fast forward a few years. I finally got a job as a medical assistant for a plastic surgeon and was able to wave goodbye to the food service industry. Life was finally starting to make sense for me. And then, without warning, I developed a severe latex allergy during a long surgical case that I was scrubbed in for. At that point, over 10 years ago, latex allergies were not as acceptable as they are now. It was a big deal that the office had to spend extra money on latex-free gloves to be used on a daily basis. I felt like a financial burden, and I subconsciously dismissed any hope in pursuing a nursing/medical degree.

In 2012, I moved from Texas to Louisiana with a “prince charming” who gave me the moral support to go back to school. I knew I couldn’t attend classes on campus, but I saw there were online options available now that a decade had passed. It was engrained in my generation’s minds that we had to earn a degree, any degree, in order to find good jobs to support ourselves. So, I worked full-time in a neurosurgeon’s office, took at least 13-15 hours each semester online, and earned my Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree with a 3.4 GPA. I made either the President’s List or Dean’s List every semester, and I graduated in the Honor Society in 2015.

Here we are - 2022. I am still living here in Louisiana; however, my decade-long relationship has ended and I am trying to survive out here alone. My entire family still resides in Texas, so I have no outside financial support like many of my friends & colleagues do. I have never been married, so I have no financial support from a divorce like many of my friends & colleagues do. I do not have any children, so I have no dependents to claim for financial support. I have a bachelor’s degree that has proven not to be beneficial to me, and my income is based off of my CCMA certification. My rent for a 1 bedroom apartment costs more than a 2 week paycheck, and I hold my breath hoping my car note does not hit my account before my direct deposit. This is not the life I ever pictured or imagined for myself - I want to “thrive” and not just “survive” in the coming years. I love my job working alongside OBGYN doctors, but I know I am capable of more. I realize now that time waits for no one, and if you want something different - you have to do something different. I cannot wait for an opportunity to fall into my lap because realistically - that is not how life works. I have waited for this “happily ever after” I used to dream of for far too long, and I have nothing to show for my patience except for bruises, lots of ramen noodles, and debt. Despite my circumstances, I have already jumped through extensive hurdles to obtain all of the necessary documentation, records, transcripts from out of state, etc. and have been in contact with my advisor, who has scheduled me for as many online classes that were available towards earning my RN (she is waiting for more spots to become available, but I have already taken these classes in the past, so I feel that I should still receive credit for them since I completed my degree). To my dismay, I have discovered not only do the numerous courses that I previously paid for and passed towards my bachelor’s degree I earned in 2015 no longer meet the “7 year mark” the health sciences department requires - I have to retake them all - which not only wastes valuable time towards earning my RN and becoming able to financially support myself - but it unnecessarily adds to my overall debt balance in general and to what it will cost me now to attend LSUE. On top of that initial disappointment/discouragement, I have recently been made aware my financial aid has been denied due to exceeding the maximum amount of attempted hours. As an individual genuinely making an effort to better themselves in a world that has grown accustomed to entitlement & handouts, it is sincerely heartbreaking to know what my potential is, but that it is out of my reach not due to me being incapable - but due to financial resources & limitations. Neither of my parents were able to attend college, and although I did become a first generation graduate, I desire so much more than a piece of paper. I want to be able to have passion, purpose, and pride in what I do for the rest of my life. I want to defy the odds stacked up against me, and I want to instill hope in the hopeless. It would be an honor to receive financial assistance to make my dream of being a labor & delivery nurse come to life, and I would be eternally grateful for such a life-altering opportunity. Thank you in advance for taking the time to hear my story and to understand just how much I am in need of assistance if I ever plan to be someone my future self will be proud of.

Samantha Nicole Istre