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FROM DROPOUT TO RN
By Marshall McClung
Two young Graham County women have just recently completed a long journey, and the trip has been a difficult and trying one with many obstacles to overcome. Tammy Phillips and Lorita Eller came from being high school dropouts to Registered nurses.
Tammy became a mother at age 16 and dropped out of school the summer between her 9th and 10th grades. Later she worked at jobs such as store clerk and waitress. In 1979 she entered a year long work program with the U.S. Forest Service known as the Young Adult Conservation Corps.
It had always bothered Tammy that she had not finished high school and in 1982, she got her G.E.D. She then began taking some courses at Tri-County Community College such as business administration. She also began working at Tallulah Health Center as a medical assistant. This got her interested in the field of nursing so she began school for a licensed practicing nurse (L.P.N.). She then started another year of training at Haywood Community College to become a registered nurse.
It was hard enough to pull this off what with raising a son, financial expenses, working, etc., but in the process, Tammy became pregnant and was sick every day from the end of July to the end of September. Tammy says she never would have made it without the help of family and friends. Some of the women taking nursing with her were a big help. Lorita Eller did most of the driving, Amy Collins ironed her uniforms, and Barbie Adams and others would get food. Her sister Joy Stewart typed papers for her. Her mother Burlean Tipton would clean house and do other chores for her. Her father Hubert Tipton helped her with finances and visited her several times while she was sick. Her son Travis and husband Odell also helped.
Lorita, like Tammy also dropped out of school. Lorita had missed a lot of school due to being out sick so much with asthma. She found herself falling further behind, and quit school in the 9th grade at age 15.
As she got older, her asthma condition improved a lot. She worked a year with the U.S. Forest Service in the Young Adult Conservation Corps. After completing this, she did a lot of baby-sitting for people. Lorita was also bothered by the fact that she did not finish high school, so went on to get her G.E.D.
When she decided to get into nursing, she was married with two children. Lorita said the most difficult part of nursing training for her was all the medical terminology. While training for L.P.N. at Tri-County Community College, Lorita tied for first place for the highest grade point average in her class and received an academic achievement award.
Lorita credits her husband, his family, and her family for giving her major support during her training. Her husband Terry did a lot of household chores while she was in school. She says the other ladies taking training with her; Tammy Phillips, Barbie Adams, and Amy Collins also helped her a lot.
Lorita says anyone who wants to be a nurse has got to really want to do it and have a lot of determination. She says you have to care for people and have compassion for them.
Tammy is currently employed at District Memorial Hospital in Andrews, and Lorita at the Graham County Health Department in pediatrics and children's clinics. Congratulations on a job well done ladies, we are proud of you!
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These pages are from the people of Graham County, North Carolina.
For additional information on Graham County Adventures
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This page is maintained by Tom Livingston, Robbinsville, North Carolina