Keisha is proof of what can be accomplished through hard work and sheer determination. The Culpeper resident overcame homelessness while raising a young child to attain two health care certifications and start a fulfilling career as a certified phlebotomist/nurse assistant. In her position, Smith now has full-time benefits, including health insurance for her and her son.
Smith was taking a certified nursing assistant (CNA) class through a medical facility when she stopped by Lord Fairfax Community College’s Fauquier campus to see what classes were available. She was unaware of LFCC’s career-training courses, so she grabbed a catalog to take home with her.
“I was just looking through it, and the phlebotomy program caught my eye,” Smith says. “I like the health care field, and I just figured, ‘Why not?’”
When she started the course in Oct. 2017, Smith’s son, Alhaji Kamara Jr., was just a year old.
“As a new mother, I found motivation in my child – I knew that I wanted a better life for us and I had to work for it,” Smith recalls. “After a pay cut, I was evicted; I had made one too many late payments and ended up homeless. But, I pressed on, keeping my head in my books, showing up for class and completing what was expected of me. I shed a few tears into my books, but I never quit. I had faith that my situation was temporary.”
Smith ultimately passed her CNA and phlebotomy technician certification exams. She began work as a CNA and a mobile phlebotomist, Smith has recently begun working as a dialysis technician with DaVita Culpeper Dialysis, where she has great benefits for herself and her son.
The phlebotomy course at LFCC is 55 hours, and students will do at least 30 live venipunctures to qualify for the certification exam. Because she qualified for financial assistance, Smith only paid about $65 for the phlebotomy course. Smith’s ultimate goal is to be an occupational therapist, and she plans to start classes in pursuit of that in the spring at Eastern Virginia Career College.
“I love being there for someone, helping them,” she says. “I just kind of put myself in their shoes. You have to be compassionate in this work. I love it. I’m just proud of how far I’ve come.”
This article originally appeared on Lord Fairfax Community College’s website.