After a fight with her mother at age 17, Sidney Welling essentially lived out of her car in Michigan for almost three years. She dropped out of high school, she spent nights at rest stops, she woke every morning wondering where her next meal was coming from.
She caused the conflict with her mother, she said. It was 100% her fault, she will tell you. But owning up to causing the problems did not eliminate them.
“It was the worst time in my life,” Welling said. “It was just incredibly hard. Now when I’m feeling down, when I’m thinking I’m not doing anything good, I reflect back on those times.”
She can come away from those reflections reminding herself that she is doing good things these days. Her effort to live a better life was recently recognized with an Equity in Education scholarship from Sanford Health that will help her graduate from Presentation College this spring. A chapter in life that began as a homeless person will close with a nursing degree.
“The fact that Sanford took a chance on me is just amazing,” she said. “Every time I think about it I get emotional because somebody tried to help me and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.”
Supporting first-generation college students
The Equity in Education scholarship program aids underrepresented and traditionally underserved populations seeking higher education. Award recipients must demonstrate exceptional character and leadership in furthering their own progress and in enriching the lives of others, especially in service, academics and community involvement and impact.
For Welling, it’s another sign that she is a long way from those difficult days in Michigan. There is hope now, in addition to safety, a steady income and a circle of people helping her make the best of what not that long ago was a bad situation.
“I’m so glad I’m here – I’ve experienced so many amazing things,” Welling said. “It’s like this was the path that God wanted me to take.”
Three days before she turned 20, Welling made the pivotal decision to move from Michigan to Aberdeen, South Dakota. It began with a phone call to her father, who had moved to Aberdeen years earlier, and led to her packing her things and restarting her life. Within a month, with a high school degree she earned online, she was enrolled at Presentation College.
She’s the first person in her family to get to college.
Finding her way to nursing
She thought she would eventually end up at a school that offered engineering but while locking down the prerequisite courses at Presentation, she ended up taking classes that would appear on a nursing curriculum. Subjects like anatomy, physiology and microbiology led her to view her future in a different light.
“It was my junior year at Presentation and I realized I would actually love a nursing career,” Welling said. “I’ve met so many amazing people and had so many amazing opportunities. At that point it just hit me that I wanted help people and take care of them and give them the compassion they need.”
Welling sees herself as eventually working in an emergency department at a hospital. The variety of responsibilities would be compelling, as would the everyday immediacy of providing care.
“I had about $4,000 left to pay on my tuition when I found out I was getting this scholarship,” Welling said. “I had no idea exactly how I was going to pay it. Then the scholarship completely paid it so I owe nothing now. It was just a blessing. Just an incredibly insane blessing.”
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