How education changed the health, economic well-being of one student
WEATHERFORD — Student success can be measured in multiple ways. A high school valedictorian is one way. A college graduate who lands her first full-time job is another. One measure could be the tenacity of a student who overcomes impossible odds to finish school, or the graduate who becomes an inspiration and role model for other students.
At 15, Linda Badillo was forced to live on her own because of a bad family situation. As a high school freshman, she earned money working as a waitress while still attending Clinton High School. Eventually, the paychecks were not enough to cover the bills, so Badillo dropped out of school to wait tables full-time. She returned to school her senior year and, by attending alternative school, made up the missed work to graduate on time with her class.
“I knew I didn't want to wait tables forever,” Badillo said, “and education was my way out.”
The following year, Badillo went to Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford with plans to become a teacher. She chose SWOSU because it was close to her hometown and the tuition was affordable. Badillo credits the university staff for helping her navigate the paperwork and enrollment process.
“I talked to other universities, but they were not interested in me due to my family and financial situation,” Badillo explained. “SWOSU understood that I was on my own and helped me to do what I needed to get in college. They helped me find ways to pay for college, such as through scholarships and the Workforce Investment Act, and made sure I kept up with the process.”
In her sophomore year, Badillo gave birth prematurely to her daughter Alana, who required round-the-clock medical care. Badillo couldn't afford the time or money to attend college and take care of a baby. So, again, she was forced to drop out of school.
Nursing was not a career choice Badillo had considered, but after caring for her child and working with health care providers, she realized that nursing could be a lifeline and a career path.
“When my daughter was little, I needed to quickly learn so much medical information to take care of her,” Badillo said. “It made sense to apply that knowledge toward a degree.”
Pursuing bigger dreams
Badillo graduated with a practical nursing degree from Western Technology Center in 2003 and started working for a local nursing home as a licensed practical nurse/charge nurse. Within two years, she worked her way up to be the director of nursing.
Continuing her pursuit of higher education, she earned her registered nurse degree from Rose State College and then attended Oklahoma City University for her bachelor's degree in nursing.
Badillo recently graduated from SWOSU with a master's in nursing education. Her class is the first to graduate from SWOSU's all-online degree program.
While pursuing her master's, she worked as a Health Careers Certification Instructor at Western Technology Center at the Burns Flat campus — where she began her nursing career.
“There is no way I could have completed this degree if it hadn't been completely online,” Badillo explained. “I work full-time and had to fit the coursework into late evenings and weekends.”
Helping students succeed
“Linda is a great example of the crucial role the regional system universities have in helping Oklahomans get a college degree,” said Mark Stansberry, chairman of the Board of Regents of the Regional University System of Oklahoma (RUSO). “Our versatility in providing a high-quality education with flexible learning allows us to help our students excel regardless of circumstances."
SWOSU is one of six universities within the Regional University System. Combined with Northeastern State University, East Central University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma, RUSO enrolls nearly 40,000 students.
RUSO's statewide network of universities and satellite campuses helps students earn accredited four-year degrees through classroom and online instruction. Stansberry said the regional universities have, or are in the process of placing, nearly 80 complete degree programs online.
“Linda's success proves that when a university makes the effort to meet students where they are at in their journey, they can accomplish their dreams,” Stansberry added.
“When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher. Through nursing, my life experiences and now my online master's degree, I can teach on a collegiate level,” Badillo said.
The measure of success
Badillo plans to one day teach nursing classes at her alma mater — a measure of student success by any standard. But, Badillo has another benchmark for student success — the impact that she has on her students at Western Technology Center.
“Often, I work with students who are told they are not 'college material,' or they can't afford college,” Badillo said. “They think this is their last stop, but I push them a little further. I share my story and show them that it is possible. It lights a fire so that many times they dream bigger and change their career path.”
So, what happened to the Badillo baby that set her mother on the path of becoming a health care professional? Alana, 17, recently graduated from Clinton High School. She will attend pharmacy school at SWOSU on a full scholarship.
“My student success story is full of examples of what not to do, of people who are rooting for you and willing to help and how to not give up on your education — even when it seems impossible,” Badillo mused. “My student success story is also being an inspiration to students, including my daughter, that not giving up and believing in yourself leads to a better ending.”