Shalimar Hicks

Greenville Technical College

"Greenville Tech is my roots. It showed me how big of a difference I can make not only within my own life, but also in the lives of others."

I was born and raised in California. When I was 21, my dad got a job transfer that brought us to South Carolina. I always knew I wanted to be a nurse, but I hadn’t always made the best decisions growing up. I knew I needed to turn my life around, so I enrolled at Greenville Tech. 

This is the story of defying my past and redefining my future. 

I found out about the patient care technician program my first semester. I thought that would be a great way to get a foot in the door at a hospital, and see what working in the medical field was really like. I enrolled in the program, and was immediately able to get a job with Greenville Health System. 

When I had my daughter in 2014, it made me realize I need to get back in school. I enrolled again and finished my prerequisites for the nursing program. During that time, I also had a son. It was like I was stacking the odds against myself, but I was super determined to keep pushing for my education. 

I began the nursing program in May of 2017. It was very challenging, especially with two kids. I ended up becoming the “Breakthrough to Nursing” director for the Student Nurse Association. That really provided me with a platform to make changes at the school and help uplift minorities. I did a lot of projects at Greenville Tech, including a homelessness project where I got all the nursing students to donate different items to about 75 people in need. The kits contained shampoo, conditioner, ChapStick, gum, soap, socks, even $5 gift cards to McDonald’s. I was also able to partner with a lot of the programs through Greenville Tech to create a better support system connecting minority students to the resources they needed to be successful. 

I got a job through Spartanburg Regional in labor and delivery, which was amazing because that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Everyone always told me how difficult it was to get into labor and delivery, especially as a new nurse, but the experience I gained at Greenville Tech really prepared me for it. In August of last year, I started my RN-to-BSN, to get my bachelor’s degree at Capella University, and I just graduated.

 

What did you learn about yourself along the way? 

That I can do anything that I want to do. I feel like those little accomplishments really add up. My family once had a perception of me not really being very responsible. Just knowing other people’s perceptions of you can make you feel insecure about yourself and your own capabilities. Graduating from the patient care technician program gave me confidence to get into the nursing program. Once I got in the nursing program, I was like, “Wow, I am smart enough.” 

You create your own experience based on your perception. Do you want to see and seek the best in a situation? Or do you want to come to class or work complaining every day? You set that energy. Greenville Tech is my roots. It showed me how big of a difference I can make not only within my own life, but also in the lives of others.

 

How did having your kids motivate you? 

When I had my daughter, I knew the money I was making as a patient care technician in CNA wasn’t very much. I was making $11 an hour, which is okay as a 23-year-old, but I knew that that wasn’t going to provide my daughter with the lifestyle that I wanted to be able to offer her. It’s almost like your mind shifts when you have a child. I’m not living just for me anymore. I have a young life who didn’t ask to be here that is now here because of the decisions that I have made. I have to be responsible and make sure that I provide her with the best environment, energy, atmosphere and financial stability that I possibly can.

I didn’t want to be dependent on anybody else. I didn’t want to rely on the government, because I didn’t want to need something that someone could take away from me. I wanted a degree and a career. It became imperative to me that I do whatever I had to do to make sure that she could live a good life and that I was setting her up for success.

 

How do you think your experience compared to what you might have experienced at a four-year university? 

I got way more hands-on experience at Greenville Tech than people I know who went to four-year universities. You can read books all day, but at the end of the day can you apply those things in practice? I think that was extremely imperative in my becoming a nurse. Technical colleges prepare you to actually do the work. 

I feel like Greenville Tech is also equipped and ready to help people from all walks of life, whether you have kids, work a full-time job, are going back to school, getting a new degree or starting over. It’s easier when you’re still living at home with your parents and they are paying for everything while you go straight through, but that is not everyone’s reality. 

At the end of the day, you also save money by going to technical college, and the education you receive is just as good as a four-year university. I’m working right alongside a Clemson nurse currently, but I spent way less getting my degree. 

 

What advice do you have for other people just beginning their journey? 

I would definitely encourage people not to wait to figure out what they are passionate about. What do you want to do? What interests you? Ask yourself whether you want to come out of this pandemic in the same situation that you’re in now or whether you want to come out of it with a degree and take that next step for your future.