Shirley Parrott-Copus was four semesters into her registered nursing program at Terra State Community College when they kicked her out of the program for being hard of hearing, despite her 3.7 GPA and her experience working as a licensed practical nurse for nearly 20 years.
After winning her settlement against Terra State in December of 2015 for $75,000, Parrott-Copus was back on the hunt for a new school to continue her education to become a registered nurse.
She says for her, it was never about the money. Instead, it was about getting her degree and working in her desired field.
One phrase has been the driving force behind Parrott-Copus’ motivation to become a registered nurse.
“Tell me I can’t, and I’ll show you I can,” she said.
That determination was tested more than once.
After being turned down by three colleges, Marion Tech accepted her into their LPN to RN bridge program, but the apprehension was still there.
“It was like, 'Ok, I’m in, now let’s hope they don’t do what Terra did and kick me out,'" Parrott-Copus said. "But from the minute I got here, there were no issues, there were no doubts. There was a whole lot of, 'how can we do this? How can we make this work?'”
Parrott-Copus started classes in January 2017, commuting from Tiffin to Marion at least twice a week for classes. And not once during that time was she discouraged from this career path for being hard of hearing.
“Not one person at this school has said, 'you can’t do this because you’re hard of hearing,'" she said. "My instructors have encouraged me, 'you can do whatever you want, your hearing has no bearing on that.'”
Besides her family and friends, Parrott-Copus says Marion Tech director of nursing Cindy Hartman was instrumental in getting her through nursing school.
“Cindy has been nothing but helpful. She’s never even questioned whether I could do this or not, she’s never had an issue with that," Parrott-Copus said. "And coming from the director of the program [at Terra State] telling me I can’t do this, to the director of this program saying you can do this and we’re going to help, that means a lot. That made a huge difference in how I felt about whether I could do this or not.”
For Hartman, her reaction to Parrott-Copus’ disability wasn't hesitation. It was: how do we make this work.
“I really was thinking, 'what is it that we can do to help this student be successful,'" Hartman said.
Hartman worked with Marion Tech’s student resource center to work on accommodations, and because of their willingness to help her, Parrott-Copus will be graduating on May 12.
A goal Hartman had no doubt Parrott-Copus would achieve.
“Just from meeting with her the first time, I realized she was a very motivated person, a very goal-oriented person," Hartman said. "I certainly admire Shirley for her hard, hard work and the sacrifices she’s made.”
This wasn’t an easy road for Parrott-Copus. But looking back now, she has no doubt that Marion Tech was where she was supposed to be all along.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself in this process," she said. "There’s been a few times that my instructors believed in me more than I believed in me. And that meant a lot. I was just determined, and I didn’t give up. And it was lucky because Marion Tech seemed to be the right fit.”
Parrott-Copus already has two job offers; one in Bucyrus working as a registered nurse in the ICU, and one as director of nursing in a drug and alcohol rehab center.
She adds that without the help of her lawyers, willingness from those involved in her clinicals and the support from the school, her friends and family, she wouldn't have made it to this point.
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