Southwestern Illinois College Respiratory Care student Kimberly Zellers believes it is never too late to improve yourself or to overcome life’s adversities.
This attitude is what helped her start her life over when her husband of 25 years passed away suddenly of heart attack in 2013. She found herself raising three children alone with no college education, no job and no job prospects. On top of that, her home was in the middle of a renovation project and she had a hole in the wall, no insulation and no running water in the kitchen. Going to college to train for a career seemed like the logical next step for a secure future.
At the time, she lived in Indiana. A friend recommended she consider moving to the Metro East because of the numerous educational and employment opportunities in the area.
“I started investigating the college and what it had to offer,” Zellers said. “I was impressed with SWIC’s credentials and reputation. The Respiratory Care program really stood out.”
Though she had been out of school and out of the workforce for many years, she had always been a good student. She was in the top 10 percent of her high school graduating class and had been in the National Honor Society. Zellers, 47, knew she wanted a career helping others, so after investigating many options, she felt Respiratory Care was a perfect fit.
“I registered for classes soon after I moved here…so I wouldn’t chicken out,” she said.
SWIC offers a two-year Associate in Applied Science Degree in Respiratory Care. The program prepares graduates to work in hospitals and other health care facilities monitoring, evaluating and treating patients’ cardiopulmonary issues and illnesses in conjunction with other medical professionals. The degree program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.
“All of my professors have been so thorough at preparing me for my future,” she said. “They have been there any time I needed guidance and support.”
Enrolling in college was just one hurdle. Being able to finance her education was another issue. She and her family were living on Social Security benefits and the kindness of friends and family. But luckily she received a $3,500 SWIC Foundation Scholarship award to help fund her education.
“My scholarships have been a blessing to me and my family,” Zellers said. “It has relieved some of the stress of being a single mother and helped me get the support I need to accomplish my goals.”
The SWIC Foundation offers more than 250 privately funded scholarships for students based on financial need, academic merit, program of study, geographic location and/or personal circumstances. Students can be considered for numerous scholarships simply by submitting one application.
“I’m thankful to the donors and the Foundation for believing in me,” she said. “I’m grateful for the gift of an education.”
Zellers plans to pursue a career as a respiratory therapist and someday a nurse practitioner. She is president of the Respiratory Care Club and a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. In addition, she is a deacon at First United Presbyterian Church in Collinsville.
She and her daughter Kayla live in Collinsville. She also has two adult children: Nathan Zeller and Ashlie Foote; plus two grandchildren, Cameron Zeller and Jasmine Foote.
For more information about SWIC’s Respiratory Care program or Foundation scholarships, visit swic.edu.