Determined Duo Graduates Master’s Program
by Anna Grace Galkin
Mother-daughter duo Valerie and Erika Belmont acted together on their separate hopes for the future by simultaneously enrolling in Cedarville’s Master’s of nursing program. Their unique time of schooling together allowed each to grow significantly despite the daily struggle of schooling and life’s unexpected changes.
When Valerie originally graduated from Cedarville’s nursing program in 1990, most of her friends pursued their Master’s of Science in Nursing. Instead, Valerie immediately entered the workforce as a nurse and eventually gave up her travel-nurse position to care for her growing children.
As time passed and Valerie’s two youngest boys entered their last years of high school, she developed a desire to return to her nursing career. However, she needed extra schooling to land her dream job of working as a nurse practitioner in a doctor’s office.
Around that same time, Valerie’s daughter, Erika, completed her undergraduate in nursing, also from Cedarville. A trip to Ghana excited Erika about a possible future in medical missions, but it also made her interested in acquiring more advanced medical skills through additional schooling.
Though twenty-seven years separated Valerie and Erika’s Bachelors of Nursing graduation, their hopes for the future led them to pursue Cedarville’s online Master’s of Family Nurse Practitioner degrees as a unique mother-daughter duo. In 2019, both women enrolled in Cedarville’s online platform from their home in Pennsylvania.
Optimistic about the opportunities their higher education would provide, Valerie and Erika supported each other through Cedarville’s rigorous education. Valerie squeezed the majority of her schoolwork between her work and home-life responsibilities. And once a semester, she and Erika would make the seven and a half hour trek to campus.
Valerie said, “As a homeschool mom I have invested much of my life into the education of all six of my children. This experience was a treasure to learn side by side one of my favorite students and favorite people.”
In addition to completing her coursework, Erika worked a full-time job and continually encouraged her mom through practicums and more intensive clinical experiences.
Valerie and Erika graduated together in 2020 with their Master’s degrees. During their last semester, Covid-19 temporarily shut down clinicals, which significantly slowed the post-graduation process of test-taking, licensure, and employment. Neither of the women received their license until December.
Though Valerie had hoped she would have had a job by summertime, she was determined to search for work in the meantime. However, her excitement from completing such a formative, “intimidating” educational step dampened as job options dwindled. The time in between graduation and starting her first nursing job seemed anticlimactic, but was ultimately used as a time of testing and growth.While Valerie and Erika continued their job search, Erika found a volunteer position. The extra time allowed her to return briefly to Ghana with Arm of Hope ministries, pursuing her passion for overseas nursing. Erika’s adjusted expectations reminded her continually of God’s sufficiency.
At times, “[God] has more to teach us in the process” than even in reaching the end goal. Erika reminded herself that “just because I don’t have a job doesn’t mean I’m a failure.” She continued matter-of-factly, “even if it does, that’s nothing to dwell on.”
Erika has recently found work as a bedside nurse in Hershey Medical Center’s Covid-19 units and is continuing to trust that God is not finished with her but only, “sees my life in a different way than I do.”
Finally, in January, Valerie accepted a part-time job with CVS, processing COVID-related information. She explained that it took a long time before she realized the position, though far from what she had expected or desired, was exactly what she needed. Valerie currently works from her basement, spending lunch breaks with her boys and being present during their last years at home.
After earning their Master’s degrees together, Valerie and Erika Belmont continue to find joy in their nursing careers. Valerie emphasized that, from their first day of online schooling through graduation and job searching, “God is generous and kind… he has provided.”
In a reality hardly matching their expectations, Valerie and Erika have revealed their source of comfort and optimism in what God has done and what he will continue to do.
Anna Grace Galkin is a sophomore English Major, who tutors at the campus writing center and reports for Cedars. In her spare time, you can find her sipping an Earl Grey, passing a soccer ball, meeting new people, or off on an adventure with friends.