Single mom Michelle Cannon, age 26, completed the Health Care Administration (HCA) program at our Citrus Heights campus in August. Her 20 month old son baby James is her motivation, while her mom is her inspiration. Before enrolling at Carrington College, Michelle worked a lot of retail and customer service jobs but never had a career. She also attended a community college three different times, but never finished.
Thanks so much for your time Michelle. What prompted you to pursue your education?
A lot of it had to do with having my son. I couldn’t provide for him on my own which is why I’m living back with my mom. Having him made me realize that I want to be like my mom. My mom has always been stable. She raised me by herself since I was five, so I look up to her for that. I want to have a house of my own, be able to pay my bills, save some money, travel, and have my son be able to go to college.
Why did you choose Health Care Administration?
I liked the administration part; I liked the fact that the skills are not just applicable to health care. It gives me the chance to apply for other types of administration roles. It could open the door to opportunities in other areas if the right job doesn’t come up in the medical field.
So was HCA your first choice?
I originally wanted to work with animals; I looked at the Veterinary Technology program but a two year program wasn’t going to work for me with a toddler. I couldn’t afford to take two years off work and everything. The nine and a half month Health Care Administration Certificate of Achievement program was less of a time commitment.
Were you working while on the program?
I was at first, but I ended up leaving. Not necessarily because it was hard to work and go to school, but my employer didn’t want to work with me and my school schedule. Getting off at 1am and going to school at 7am started to take a toll, especially with a toddler, so I had to quit.
What was the most interesting thing you learned at Carrington?
Probably the medical language and terminology. Before you start, you’re like “I know where my head is, where my arms are”, stuff like that. But it’s very intriguing to learn how many little bits and pieces you’re really made of, and how things work and are connected.
Is there anything you wish you’d known looking back on day one?
I wish I’d known just how fast paced the program is; they tell you it’s a compacted course, but you don’t appreciate just how fast it is until you get into it. You have so much to learn in a small amount of time.
What the most interesting thing you learned about yourself at Carrington?
That I’m a lot more outgoing than I thought I was! I know that’s a weird thing to say, but I was always the quiet, shy type, especially around other females. On this program you really get to find out who you are, what kind of person you are, especially around other people who are in your same situation.
So was that something you made a conscious decision to improve on?
I think it just kind of happened naturally, like I evolved. I grew more as an adult, as a person. Once I grew more comfortable in my own skin, it came naturally to be more outspoken, more confident I guess. It sounds bad I know, but I had to learn to get along better with females. I was a tomboy out in the country; I grew up around guys more than girls. I was nervous that I wasn’t going to get along with these people. But I soon realized that I could make a lot of friends if I put the effort in, as it goes both ways.
Was that something you expected, or did you surprise yourself?
Oh no, I surprised myself. I figured I’d be sat at the back of the classroom like a little mouse, learn what I needed to learn, and get out.
At what point did you notice you weren’t that little mouse?
It was probably within the first two to three weeks. The first week I was a little quiet, just taking everything in, but after the second or third week I came to realize that this place wasn’t so bad, that these people weren’t so bad.
You just graduated in August and you’re not working yet. How are you approaching the job hunt?
At the moment I’m going to a Job Club. It’s not through school, it’s a city program. Not everyone there has gone to college, or even graduated high school for that matter, but they help you with your resume if you don’t have one, with interviewing, and just help with the ins and outs of job hunting. I go from 8:30am to 4pm each day because I want to do all I can to try and get out there working sooner.
Carrington still helps me too. My Career Services Advisor sends me leads, she calls me, and if she hears of anything out there she lets me know. She’s even sent out my resume for me, so the school still does a lot for me even though I’ve left. I did my extern in a cardiology office; at the time they were overstaffed but they have my resume so there may be an opportunity there at some point.
What direction do you want your career to take?
Working in health care is my ideal even though, as I mentioned earlier, my administration skills should open other doors if that doesn’t work out. I want to get my foot in the door, then once I’m settled in that environment, wherever it may be, I’d like to further my education and earn my associate’s degree in Health Care Administration. Eventually I’d like to work in a hospital or an insurance company. There is usually more room for advancement, and more long term opportunities in larger organizations.
Tell me about your support network.
My baby James has been my motivation, but my mom has been my rock. She and I are roommates; she’s been there for me throughout, helping with James and helping me. My teacher Mrs. Tobin has also been a rock; she went above and beyond what I could have ever expected. She would always take the time to sit down and help me, whether it was a personal issue or something to do with school.
She would give me all the individual attention I needed. I wouldn’t have made it without her. There were times I thought I’m not going to be able to do this, but she shared things with me – she was also a single mother – that inspired me; I thought if this woman can do it, then I can do it. We’re still in touch. I’ve told her I’m going to stalk her forever now! I send her the occasional email, pictures of my son, and she sends me pictures of her cats!
What’s the best advice you’d give a student just starting out?
Just stick with it. Every staff member, even if they’re not your teacher, is there to help you. I felt comfortable going to any one of them to ask a question or for help. I felt like they always took the time and showed that they actually cared; I could really relate to the people there.
We were like one big family. I knew students who had no outside support, but Carrington provided all the support they needed. I have a Carrington student with me now who I’m mentoring. She comes to my house when she needs help; I’ve done that with quite a few students.
What would you do with an unexpected few hours to yourself?
I’d like to go horseback riding, or go off-roading. I’m a country girl at heart, so anything outdoors is the life for me.
What difference do you believe your time at Carrington has made to your life?
I now believe I’ll have a stable future, a stable career, and be able to provide for my son on my own. I didn’t have that belief before.