Ray has smiled and worked her way toward a nursing degree

Shantieria RayShantieria Ray got a letter this May from the Southern Arkansas University Department of Nursing that validated her determination and made her day.

“I got my acceptance letter for the nursing program at the end of this school year,” Ray said. “I was excited when I read the first couple of lines because I knew my hard work had paid off.”

Ray, 21, of Plain Dealing, Louisiana, will be entering the Associate Degree in Nursing program. She is on track to graduate in May 2014, which will make her the first in her immediate family with a college degree.

She is not planning on stopping with her A.D.N., though.

“I plan to start the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at SAU right after I graduate with my A.D.N. I don’t want to waste any time,” Ray said as she shined her contagious smile.

She said she has enjoyed living on campus, but wishes she could have gotten more involved with SAU’s “Complete College Experience.” Her studies and her part-time job in Magnolia have kept her busy. But she admits she is going to have to cut her work hours down from her 20-25 hours a week when she starts the challenging nursing program in the fall.

Ray started SAU with five friends from her small town. She said she is the only one remaining from that group still going on the academic journey.

“They all gave up and decided to move back home, but I knew my hard work would pay off,” Ray said. “My motivation for achieving my goals is to always think of myself as important as anyone else. This is what has kept me going. I always smile when I think of what will come at the end of my education with regard to my career in nursing.”

Ray knows she is getting a good foundation for that career at SAU. She first came to Magnolia to attend college because of its small-town environment and friendly people. When asked who stands out on campus for her as far as helping her along the way, she pointed out the Director of Financial Aid, Bronwyn Sneed.

“Every time I have a question about anything relating to my finances at SAU, I go to Mrs. Sneed. She is excellent,” Ray said. “Everyone else in Financial Aid is great too, but with her there’s just something…she’s got it.”

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