SSC grad: The first semester, the last semester, and 20 years in between

Michelle Mayfield completed her associate’s degree in health science this spring and will complete her associate’s degree in the fall after starting college 20 years ago.

Michelle Mayfield took the path her family expected of her when she graduated from high school in 1992. She enrolled at Seminole State College that fall. She planned to complete her degree, find a career, settle down, and carve out a life for herself. However, she quickly discovered life rarely sticks to the plan.

Mayfield found that with the increased agency of adulthood came a decrease in the clarity of her goals. From elementary school through high school, she had been an exemplary student. She completed her assignments on time, made good grades, and the goal was clear: get to the next grade. But upon graduating from high school, she found herself unsure of what major she should choose, of what job she should pursue.

“I started taking classes and just failed,” Mayfield said. “College wasn’t my priority. I didn’t have any direction.”

Feeling discouraged, she decided not to enroll in the spring and instead started seeking full-time employment. She found a job at Shawnee Medical Center (now SSM Health St. Anthony - Shawnee) as a medical records clerk. She worked hard and over the years her managers noticed. She took on a number of new roles, clinic receptionist, Medicare billing clerk, and eventually was asked by one of the hospital’s physicians if she would be willing to learn medical coding. Mayfield then became a certified professional coder through the American Academy of Professional Coders. In her new role, she would codify procedures, tests and other health services for insurance companies. She soon served as a supervisor in the medical coding department and helped to train employees.

In 1996, she married Jonathan Mayfield. Before the couple had children, she planned to earn her college degree. She enrolled at SSC for a second time and began taking classes in the fall of 1999. She was still unsure of a major but worked hard in her courses and closed out the semester with superb grades. Her second attempt to finish her degree, however, was interrupted when she became pregnant with her first child Garrett.

“The next few years were chaotic. I worked full time, and after we had Garrett, we had Allison and then Mia. I was raising three kids, working, going to soccer games, football games and cheer.”

As her children grew older, she saw an opportunity to return to college for a third time. In 2018, Mayfield enrolled in the nursing program at SSC.

“I’m a nurturer by nature,” Mayfield said. “I’ve spent a lot of time working in coding, I’m ready for a new challenge, I’m ready to be around people again, because I’ve been working from home for ten years or so.”

While she knew what degree she wanted to pursue, she was apprehensive about attending college later in life.

“For many of the students I’m in classes with, I’m old enough to be their mom,” Mayfield said. “I expected to be, I don’t know, the old lady in the class, but it’s been fantastic. I’ve built some great relationships.”

Throughout her time in the nursing program, Mayfield has been a part of group she studies with and considers her cohort to be tightly knit.

“Nursing school is really tough, and you need those relationships, need those people to bounce ideas off, to encourage you. We help each other get through,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield credits her success at SSC to her nursing peers, support from her family, having a clear goal, and the desire to set an example for her children.

“After dinner, I’ve got textbooks strewn about the dining room table. I’m studying every evening because now that I’m finally doing it, I want to do it well. To show my children, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well,” Mayfield said.

While at SSC, she has been a recipient of the Moran Nursing Scholarship, a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and was recently named to the Oklahoma Association of Community College’s All-Academic Team. This summer she will participate in an internship in the Intensive Care Unit at SSM Health St. Anthony – Shawnee.

On May 7, Mayfield received her diploma. She completed her associate’s degree in health science and will wrap up her associate’s degree in nursing in the fall. While the path to earning her degrees has been a winding one, she considers it a worthwhile one.

Her children have taken notice of her hard work. Her daughter Allison, 18, is currently a concurrent student at SSC and will enroll full-time in the fall.

“I want my children to know that you might choose a path when you’re young, but you’re never too old to change that path.”