Graduate Spotlight: I Never Thought I Could Learn

By Jeff Sanchez | JUNE 1, 2022

You never know what you’re capable of until your back is against the wall. That’s what it took for Stephanie Berman to realize her full potential. In her thirties, Stephanie fled an abusive marriage with her life and her three children. Thrust into the role of sole provider, she knew she had to do something to support herself and her kids, and through the invitation of a neighbor, she went back to school, where a whole new world opened up to her. She discovered that she was capable of learning new things and succeeding at a professional level.

Stephanie has come a long way from that time in her life. If you met her today, you’d meet Stephanie Berman the proud business owner and advocate for workplace learning, and might never guess how tumultuous her journey has been. Since graduating from Capital IDEA, she has gone on to earn a master’s degree and start her own consulting business, Engagement Through Education, which helps train and prepare caregivers and nurses to be successful in the workforce. She’s confident and passionate about helping others who struggle as she did because she knows how easy it is for people to underestimate their own capabilities. I had the chance to sit down with Stephanie to hear more about her story. Below is the recorded interview broken into eight segments with condensed and edited transcripts under each video.

1. Meet Stephanie Berman, Capital IDEA Graduate

Hi, my name is Stephanie Berman and I got my associate degree in nursing at Austin Community College through the Capital IDEA program and then from there, I went on to get my bachelor’s degree and my master’s degree with University of Texas at Arlington via the online version of the program. And currently, right now I am running my own company called Engagement Through Education which offers all different types of engagement for healthcare along with RN delegation that we do, and I also do many things consulting out in the industry for companies such as hospices or leadership teams running assisted livings or nursing homes or anyone who needs any kind of input from the RN perspective for what they’re doing.

2. What was your life like before Capital IDEA?

I was a newly single mom, which happened, unfortunately, due to domestic violence. I had 3 very small kids. At the time, my twins were one, about to turn two, and I had a six-year old. I was a stay-at-home mom at that point, and I knew I had to do something to support them, and I had to figure it out. My life had just fallen apart and turned upside down, and fortunately, my neighbor came to me and told me she was going to nursing school, and through teary eyes, I was like, ok.

3. What obstacles prevented you from going to college?

For myself, and for many other single moms I’ve talked to who are going to nursing school, I had no idea I could actually, learn. I really didn’t. I knew I wasn’t dumb, I was smart, but to actually, formally, learn something, and to become licensed at something and become an actual expert in it, I didn’t know I had the ability in me to do that. I knew I was a great mom. I knew I could figure out how to navigate that, and how to do things for them, but to actually, formally do something, I didn’t know. And then the thought of going back to school and back to work, what was I going to do with my kids? That played a big role in any choices I was making.

4. What was it like getting started?

Honestly, when that neighbor came and said, go with me to nursing school. I like to tell the funniest story. When I went to Austin Community College, and I was sitting there, there was a young guy at the registration desk, and I didn’t know what I was doing but I knew I needed to do something. When I’m sitting there and doing the registration, I’m sobbing and telling him my whole life story, and he just looked at me with this stare like, “uh, yeah, ma’am,” and he just pushed the paperwork at me, “I just need you to fill this out here.” So, I thought, ok, it was like a shock. And it made me think, ok, you can either be a victim your whole life, or you can change the story of what’s happened to you. You are going to be the only person who is able to do that. So, while there are people to help you along the way, you are going to have to take the steps.

5. What was it like going back to school?

So I had to fill out the forms, and then there were all the entrance tests I had to take, like reading and math. I thought to myself, oh this isn’t going to be good. When I went to high school I was just there for my friends. We had a great time, we only had to have a D to pass and graduate, and there was no expectation beyond that. So I met the minimum expectation. That’s why I knew taking those placement tests, it wasn’t going to be good. I was ok with reading and writing, but for math, they were expecting a lot, and I was nowhere near that. I had to start at the bottom when it came to math. One of the first classes I took was Anatomy and Physiology. In that class, the professor gave a test every day, and I remember when I got back the results of the first test I took. I’ll never forget it. I looked at it and it said, A+. I had no idea I could learn! I thought to myself, I just did this with three small kids, I was in the middle of a nasty divorce, I was trying to survive, and somehow I was able to get a 100 on a test! That was my moment where I realized I could actually do this.

6. What was the most meaningful support service you received?

The most meaningful support I received from Capital IDEA was everything. And when I say everything, I mean absolutely everything. There were the books, the scrubs, the stethoscope, the shoes, the scissors. I was better equipped than those who had the resources that they needed. There was not a study guide, or a test class, or anything additional that I needed, that Capital IDEA didn’t meet with a resource. The practical stuff from food to a Thanksgiving dinner, to helping me find resources outside even of what Capital IDEA could do, in order to keep me going. Like removing every obstacle so I could keep going on my journey to becoming a nurse.

7. What advice would you give prospective students?

Here’s the advice I would give to somebody hesitant to go back to school. Is it because you think you can’t learn or you can’t do it? This is the time to take the chance. With the support of someone or something like Capital IDEA, because there is going to be someone at Capital IDEA who will make an impact and then that something is that machine at Capital IDEA behind you to be able to use all the resources. So, if there’s a time to be successful, this is the time to be successful. Don’t doubt yourself. You can do more than you’ve ever thought possible. You can do more for yourself and for your family. And in a year from now, you’ll be so happy that you’re a year closer to whatever goal it is that you want to be. Whether it’s a nurse, mechanic, CNA, electrician. It doesn’t matter what it is. You’ll be happy you took that step. For me, this has been very true. In education, whether it’s a formal education or somebody just inputting into my life. Knowledge, it gave me options, and everybody does better when you have options and when you have choices. And that’s what you want to create for yourself. A life where you have options and choices of what you can do.

8. What advice would you give to graduate nurses entering the workforce?

There is not going to be a perfect place to take care of people. That’s the bottom line. There are going to be a lot of great places to go and care for them. Whether you’re doing it in the hospital or you’re doing it in the post-acute, you’re doing it at home. You could be doing it in all types of services to take care of people. The most impactful thing that you’re going to be able to do is to care for people. And to input into their lives. Because you’re not just going to be able to touch their lives, you’re going to be able to reach everyone’s life around them. Don’t lose sight of that because that’s really easy to do. The other thing I would say is that complaining about anything when it comes to taking care of people, even if it’s the situation of the environment where you’re taking care of them, doing any kind of complaining, don’t be the complainer be the problem solver. When I wanted to do this company it’s because I saw a problem and I knew I could fix it. Even if you’re not the type of person to start a business, you don’t have to be that person, but you can talk to people about solutions. That’s what everybody wants. They want solutions. How can we make this better, and what can we do? If you get frustrated, that’s just sitting down with a fellow nurse with a good cup of coffee, maybe a little glass of wine, and being able to talk that out, and talk about how you can fix and solve that. There are so many people just right here, in Texas alone, there are so many people who are vested in helping you all do the very best job you can as nurses. You’ve got this!


At Capital IDEA, we provide services and support to remove obstacles keeping individuals from realizing their potential and career goals. If you are feeling held back due to circumstances in your life, let’s talk. You can email our team at outreach@capitalidea.org, or sign up for an information session: LEARN MORE »

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