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Reigning Mrs. Pawtucket aspires to nursing career

May 30, 2013

Jennifer Barry Jennifer Barry

Many students at the Community College of Rhode Island are working to provide better lives for their families. Jennifer Barry of Pawtucket is one of them.

When she had a daughter at age 18, she managed to finish high school through home schooling. However, she had to go right to work to support her child, choosing easy-to-come-by retail jobs over the grind and delayed reward of a college education.

Barry had a second child, a son, in 2007 and, even with her husband’s help, the salary of a retail clerk was just not enough to comfortably support a family of four. By 2010, Barry knew she needed to make a change.

“I wanted to better myself for my kids and get an education,” she said. “I’m now the only one in my family with a college degree.”

Barry, 26, wasn’t sure what she wanted to study at first, just that she needed to have a better career. She chose to become a phlebotomist, a medical practitioner who draws blood for medical testing and blood bank donations, because it does not take long to get certified. This would be a good way to support her family and have a reliable career in the health care field, she thought.

Barry found that she enjoyed phlebotomy and her decision led her to discover a career that really called to her: nursing.

“I didn’t decide to go into nursing until I finished phlebotomy,” Barry said. “I decided I liked it.”

She finished her phlebotomy certification in 2012 and stayed at CCRI to finish her General Studies requirements, earning a 3.3 GPA. She will apply to CCRI’S nursing program this summer. Remembering the compassion and skill of the nurses who helped her while she was delivering her children, Barry hopes to become a pediatric nurse or an obstetrics and gynecology nurse to help other mothers.

Besides her classroom work and family responsibilities, Barry owns a dog-walking business called Jennifer’s Pet Sitting and Dog Walking. She is an avid runner who enjoys 5K races as well as obstacle races such as the grueling, off-road Tough Mudder competition.

Last year she even found time to compete in the Mrs. Rhode Island America competition and is the reigning Mrs. Pawtucket.

“Everyone said I was crazy for trying to fit it into my schedule but I found a way to do it,” Barry said. “I made a lot of friends doing it.”

She added that her speech class at CCRI was instrumental in helping her compete in the pageants.

“I never could have given a speech before that class,” she said. “I had huge stage fright.”

Earning a college degree while helping to raise two young children has been difficult, Barry said, and she knows the nursing program will be rigorous, but she also knows that it will be worth it in the end.

“It’s been crazy coming to school,” she said. “There have been a lot of late nights; sometimes I’m up until 3 in the morning. There were a lot of nights with no sleep.”

Nevertheless, Barry said other parents who are thinking of coming to college should make the commitment to do it.

“Don’t think that you can’t do it just because it’s a lot of work,” she said. “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything you want.”

Barry enjoyed most of her classes at CCRI. “I’ve loved it here,” she said. “The teachers have been very supportive and understanding.”

If Barry is not accepted into the nursing program this time around, she said she is willing to wait and try again because she knows that this career can improve her life.

“I live in an apartment now,” she said. “I want to get a house and an education and have a real job.”


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Last Updated: 1/31/14