Mother achieves dream of nursing career

Published on: June 30, 2008

LSC-North Harris nursing graduate Bethany Robertson and Charlotte Twardowski

It all started six years ago when Joshua Robertson walked to the campus of Lone Star College–North Harris, seeking dual-credit classes.

Joshua, who was 16 at the time, had been home schooled and had heard about the opportunity to take classes at LSC-North Harris for dual high school and college credit. His family lived in a subdivision just across the street from the campus.

“Joshua was delightful,” said Charlotte Twardowski, College Connections program manager. “He showed me a transcript his mother had generated so I could see the courses he had completed and what would fit into a dual credit program.”

Immediately enrolling in two classes, the young man did well and, shepherded by Twardowski, became a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges. Joshua also found a job on campus and enjoyed his experiences at LSC-North Harris…which is when he mentioned his sister Jessica to Twardowski.

“When Jessica turned 16, he brought her to the campus, along with their mother, Bethany,” Twardowski recalled. “Jessica was ready for some dual credit courses, following in her brother’s footsteps.”

And, like her brother Joshua, Jessica was tested and enrolled. After settling into her courses at LSC-North Harris, she was also eligible for membership in Phi Theta Kappa and, later, found an on-campus job to help with her tuition.

Twardowski’s relationships with the Robertson teenagers led their mother Bethany to the College Connections’ office one day with a quiet request.

“Bethany told me she was 34 years old and had always wanted to go to college, but didn’t feel she had the skills and wasn’t smart enough to succeed,” Twardowski recalled. “Then, I told her my story…about wanting a college education but never finding the opportunity until my children were older and then how doors opened and not only did I have a chance to earn my bachelor’s degree but, eventually, my graduate degree.”

“Mrs. Twardowski gave me confidence,” Bethany recalled. “She told me her story about not going to college until her kids were in school…and she kept pushing me in a good way,” she added.

“I had been out of high school for 16 years and felt I had forgotten all I knew,” Bethany continued. “Five years ago, I’d never gone to college. I didn’t have the self-confidence, but succeeding every semester boosted my confidence,” said the recent graduate who earned graduation honors and graduated with distinction. “Now I don’t have the fear any more.”

 had graduated from high school in Arkansas, but said her family never really discussed a college education. “I was raised by my father and step mother,” said Bethany, who moved to Houston and found a job…and independence…after high school. “Education wasn’t a priority in my home, growing up.”

After moving to Houston, Bethany met her husband Ray and after dating for about a year, the couple married. Ray, who had custody of two children from a previous marriage, and Bethany settled with their new family and Bethany worked for a few years before the two decided to home school their children. The Robertson’s also have two younger children–Garret, 13 and Hannah, nine.

“We were disturbed by the total emphasis on the TAKS test during the school day and then the three or four hours of homework our children were bringing home,” Bethany explained. “As they moved into sixth grade, we also were concerned about the social environment in the public schools…and since we didn’t have the money for private school, we decided to home school the two older children.”  

She added that she and her husband, a mechanical engineer, decided no one would care as much about their children’s educations as the two of them, so that cemented their determination to home school both Joshua and Jessica.

During one summer, when all four of the Robertson’s children were at church camp, Bethany visited Twardowski and asked to take the college’s entrance test.

“I didn’t want anyone to know, not even my husband, because I didn’t have much confidence that I would be able to pass the test,” Bethany recalled. 

Twardowski kept the woman’s secret, but Bethany Robertson passed every part, needing only some developmental work in mathematics.

“When I received my results, I went back to Mrs. Twardowski’s office and told her I had always wanted to be a nurse,” said Bethany, “and she began telling me about the core courses I would need before applying to the nursing program.

“After Bethany passed the test, she then talked with her husband, letting him know she wanted to take a college class,” Twardowski said. “She may not have had the confidence, but I saw in her the desire to succeed in the classroom.”

Beginning with her core courses, Bethany Robertson walked to school each day to take her classes–and when it came time for her to apply to the LSC-North Harris nursing program, she was able to sign up with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

When Bethany applied to the college’s nursing program, more than 700 other applicants had lined up for the 100 places in the next nursing class.

At the same time Bethany was accepted into nursing school, both Joshua and Jessica were at Texas A&M University, their father’s alma mater, completing their undergraduate degrees.

During her six years at LSC-North Harris, Bethany was an honors student, served as president of the student nursing association and she continued to excel in her classes.

On the evening of May 9th of this year, she graduated with a nursing degree. That morning, she and the family had been in College Station, watching as Joshua and Jessica received their diplomas from A&M. 

“I was so impressed with Bethany and her dedication, I knew she would go far,” said Twardowski. “I sat on the college’s honors council and was able to watch Bethany take honors contracts and represent the college in honors competition. I also recommended her as speaker at our honors convocation.

“As Bethany spoke to the audience, she recounted her six-year journey and kept talking about this person who was always there on her journey, always encouraging her,” Twardowski recalled. “Then, she turned, looked at me and said, “On Friday night, I will graduate for me and for you.”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the auditorium as Bethany Robertson completed her speech.

Today, only a few weeks after being pinned as a graduate of the LSC-North Harris nursing program, Bethany is a nurse in the medical Intensive Care Unit at Northwest Medical Center. “Finally, after all these years, I’m finally realizing my dream,” said the nurse. “I wanted to work in intensive care so I could work with only a few patients at a time. I want to make a difference…for the patients and their families.”

She’s also taking courses to earn her master’s degree in nursing. “In the program at LSC-North Harris, I had a chance to tutor nursing students in math,” Bethany explained, “and I loved teaching them…so, eventually, my goal is to become an instructor in a nursing program.”

“This is a girl who had lived a lot of life before she began her college degree,” Twardowski said, “and although she honored me by inviting me to the nursing program’s pinning ceremony, I was honored simply by her allowing me to be a part of her growth as an individual.” 

Bethany said she is telling her story because of her own life experience. “I didn’t ever have anyone to tell me I had potential,” Twardowski explained. “If I can do that for one student by telling my story, then what I’m doing is worthwhile.”

Lone Star College-North Harris is located at 2700 W.W. Thorne Drive, one-half mile south of FM 1960 E, between Aldine-Westfield and Hardy Roads. For more information about the college, call 281.618.5400 or visit: NorthHarris.LoneStar.edu.

Lone Star College System consists of five colleges, including CyFair, Kingwood, Montgomery, North Harris, and Tomball, six centers and Lone Star College-University Center. It is the largest college system in the Houston area, and third largest community college district in Texas. To learn more, visit LoneStar.edu.

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