Passion Meets Perseverance
When she was in elementary school, Ashley Jakes’ mother passed away from sickle cell anemia. She was so moved watching the people who cared for her, from that moment on, she dreamed of being a nurse, so she could help others. It was a long road, but at 32, she is finally living those dreams. Through Palmetto Goodwill and their SNAP2Work program, she earned her Certificate of Completion for Patient Care Technician from USC Aiken.
But, a lot happened in the 22 years leading up to that achievement.
At 17, Ashley had a son, Romello. Being a young mother did not steer her away from finishing her education, however. The next year, she graduated from Burke High School and walked across the stage holding his hand. She still hoped to work in the healthcare field, but she put her personal desires aside and kept pushing to give her child the best.
For almost 10 years, she worked in foodservice and in school systems so that she would have more time with her children (Romello, her stepson Dereck, and her daughter DZyer). Her ideal career in healthcare seemed farther and farther out of her reach.
Along the way, she went to Trident Technical College and Virginia College, but it was just too much, and she had to leave. Being an in-person, full-time student and 24-7 mom was impossible.
They [my kids] do not understand what I did right now, but that is okay. I did all of this for them, though. I did it for myself and I did it for my family.
In the back of her mind, however, she still wanted to help others like the nurses who helped her mom. Everything changed in 2021.
She found out about the SNAP2WORK program that Palmetto Goodwill offered through a partnership with DSS. Immediately, she gained access to free training and support services. Through the program, Ashley was introduced to her Palmetto Goodwill career navigator, Marydhel Reed, who helped navigate her online Patient Care Technician course, as well as set her up for success to earn her South Carolina state certification. She also enrolled in USC-Aiken through funding offered by the program.
With her kids home due to the pandemic and the option to do her courses and schooling online, her miracle became possible. For months Ashley spent her nights studying, her weekends taking tests, and her days working, all while taking care of her kids.
I stayed up to 3, even 4 in the morning, and then had to wake up for work. I did it because I had, and still have goals. I went back to school to do something that I really have a passion to do.
There were long periods of time when it was hard to stay positive. With student loans, mouths to feed, and tests to study for, it was a lot to take even with her husband’s support. “A lot of times I wanted to give up. I had to push myself, like, literally push myself – push, push, push every single day.” She thanks her support system – her husband, kids, father, stepmother, and Marydhel for encouraging her along the way.
When she completed her PCT course, she was hired at Indigo Hall Assisted Living Facility as a Patient Care Assistant. For the first time in her life, she started earning benefits for herself and her family, and almost doubled her income. To her, being in the career that she has always longed for and having the ability to provide for her family is the best part of it all. Her refusal to give up got her this far. Even though on paper she has achieved her goals, that does not mean she will stop dreaming.
Reflecting on all her accomplishments, she added, “I’m pretty sure there is going to be plenty, plenty more.”
When her kids are older, she plans to go back to school again and continue her education so that she can become an RN. Ashley also has big plans for her personal life that have been made possible with her new job. “I am living in an apartment right now. I hope to be living in a home before my Romello graduates from high school.”
She wants to keep learning and her career has only just begun. We cannot wait to see how far you will go, Ashley. Thank you for being an inspiration to us all.