GNTC Practical Nursing Students Overcome Barriers To Earn State And National Recognition
Monday, July 22, 2019
Kimberlee Autumn Hall (right) won the gold medal in Practical Nursing, and Brittany Square (left) won the silver medal in Practical Nursing at the 2019 SkillsUSA Georgia competition in March. Ms. Hall went on to win the bronze medal at the SkillsUSA’s national competition in June.
Georgia Northwestern Technical College Practical Nursing students Kimberlee Autumn Hall and Brittany Square made GNTC history when they won the gold and silver medal at SkillsUSA Georgia, and Ms. Hall went on to win the bronze medal at SkillsUSA’s National Leadership and Skills Conference.
Both students had to overcome many obstacles along the way, and became best friends while completing the Practical Nursing program on GNTC’s Floyd County Campus in Rome.
“We met in school when we started here but it was like an instant connection,” said Ms.
Hall, a resident of Plainville. “We are extremely alike and Brittany has turned into my absolute best friend.”
At the age of 15, Ms. Hall had to leave home with her sister, Shiloh, who was two at the time.
“Both my mother and father were on drugs and I moved out, helped raise my little sister and I had to quit school and everything,” said Ms. Hall.
According to Ms. Hall, after the birth of her children, BrantLee and Kimber, something kind of clicked that made her want to continue her education.
“I decided that I was going back to school, so I got my GED diploma, my CNA certification and then I enrolled into GNTC’s Practical Nursing program,” said Ms. Hall. “It’s been hard because my husband Brandon works night shift.”
Ms. Hall said that winning the gold medal in SkillsUSA Georgia and the bronze medal in SkillsUSA’s national competition was an amazing experience, but she couldn’t have done it without Ms. Square.
”We had the opportunity to do SkillsUSA Georgia. I didn’t want to do it at first, and Brittany made me do it,” said Ms. Hall. “At the competition, when they called my name out as the winner of the gold medal, I didn’t even realize it because I was so distracted and excited that Brittany had won the silver medal.”
Ms. Square was in nursing clinicals when she received a call from her husband that they had been evicted from their home in Cartersville and he was moving things out.
“We had some payments that were not coming in on time and it kind of put us into a hole,” said Ms. Square. “We stayed at a hotel for about a week, and then we transitioned to a friend’s house for a little while.”
Her husband, Ronnie, had worked at Hays State Prison in Trion and was looking to move into becoming a police officer. He ended up landing at the Clay County Police Department, and then they saved up their money and moved to Stockbridge, which is south of Atlanta.
This meant that Ms. Square’s daily commute was suddenly much longer. She also had to take her kids to daycare and be at her clinical site before 6:45 a.m.
“With Atlanta traffic, it sometimes takes about two and a half hours to get to GNTC,” said Ms. Square. “I have to wake up Mia and Tristan sometimes at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. just to get us on the road on time.”
At the end of the day she would have to pick up her children at 5 p.m. and make the trip back to Stockton.
“Sometimes it would take four hours to get home because of the Atlanta traffic,” said Ms. Square.
According to Ms. Square, the instructors and friends she made at GNTC helped her to navigate the difficult times.
“I stayed with Kimberlee a few nights just so I wouldn’t have to get up so early the first few times,” said Ms. Square. “Mrs. Pauley also has reached out and made connections to make sure that I had what I need so I can focus on my studies.”
Ms. Square said that she and Ms. Hall were both excited for each other at SkillsUSA Georgia.
“We were the only two students to come from GNTC representing Practical Nursing at SkillsUSA Georgia,” said Ms. Square. “When they called my name I was shocked, and when they called her name I just knew that it was just the best moment ever.
“SkillsUSA was phenomenal for us because it gave us the break we needed and it allowed us to re-affirm what we wanted to do with our lives.”
Ms. Hall says that her father is back in her and her family’s life now.
“My Dad is back home, he’s on rehabilitation and so we are doing it together,” said Ms. Hall. “We are making a slow transition back to him parenting.”
She said that many of the challenges that she faced was her motivation to keep going.
“It was extremely hard, but if the life that I come from has taught me nothing else, it is that it doesn’t matter what you come from, you can build your own and make better,” said Ms. Hall. “Instead of taking what I came from and making it my excuse why I couldn’t do anything, it was my excuse why I’m never going to fall back.”
Ms. Square said that it has been hard and an emotional ride for her, but in the end it was very rewarding.
“The instructors here make a connection with their students, they love you like family and they want to see you succeed,” said Ms. Square. “I’m looking forward to taking the exit exam and being with my best friends, my family that I’ve made here and seeing what the future holds for me.”
Suzanne Pauley, director of Practical Nursing at GNTC, said, "Kimberlee and Brittany’s perseverance is why they overcame so many obstacles in their path.
“I am so proud of them. I take pride in knowing what I taught was beneficial not only in their success with SkillsUSA, but most importantly in their career.”