When Raychel Szostak decided to return to school to get a High School Equivalency after dropping out of high school almost 15 years ago, her motivation was to get a promotion at work. After getting settled into the routine of studying and testing at Haywood Community College, she quickly realized that her real motivation was to be a role model for her five children.
“How could I tell my kids that they needed to go to college if I was a high school dropout?” Szostak said.
Completing high school equivalency requirements in just two months’ time, Szostak changed her whole perspective. She quit her full-time job at a casino to attend college classes and is now enrolled in Haywood Community College’s medical assisting program, she has found a career path to feel passionate about.
“I am a nurturer and I want to help people,” Szostak said. “Medical assisting is a respectable career that I can be proud of.”
Szostak also likes the work hours that will allow her to spend more time with her children.
However, getting to this point in her life wasn’t easy. From the age of 14 until 16, Szostak lived in a group home. At age 16, she became pregnant and dropped out of high school becoming a stay-at-home mom. For six years, she was involved in a domestic violence relationship that destroyed her confidence.
“I didn’t think I could come to school or even think about passing a test,” Szostak said. “But the instructors in HCC’s College and Career Readiness Program are cheerleaders. They celebrate with you and encourage you along the way.”
The encouragement doesn’t end with a high school credential in hand. Szostak said everyone at HCC is super helpful.
“Learning Support Services helps students with papers and the library staff teaches you how to complete research,” she said. “Bigger schools wouldn’t have the time to help with these things.”
As a medical assisting student, Szostak is a work-study in the College and Career Readiness Department where she is able to see other students reach milestones. She is now a cheerleader who celebrates with these students.
For her own children, Szostak has learned ways to help them with their future, from what to expect when meeting with an advisor to how to find the resources they will need. She also knows firsthand how important an education really is.
“I used to hate school,” Szostak said “but now I love it.”
For details about HCC’s College and Career Readiness Program visit haywood.edu or call 627-2821.