Former literacy student is helping others achieve their dreams...
Teresa finishes degree and will help others achieve theirs!
When Teresa was told, ‘Maybe you should consider a different career path,’ she became more determined to achieve her dream of becoming a phlebotomist.
Teresa, age 43, knew it would be more difficult for her than her classmates, yet, she was determined to make it.
She has Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), different learning disabilities and other anxiety disorders. While having these challenges, she recently completed her degree at Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC).
“Many people with disabilities don’t make it,” she said. “I would see many people drop out (of the program).”
She first became a student at the Literacy Council of Greater Waukesha (LCGW) in 2005. She worked with different tutors who helped with her math, reading and writing skills. They provided life-long strategies for studying and completing final projects which will continue to be useful when she is employed. “I could not have done this without my tutors,” she said. Cathy Kozlowicz, who was the Literacy Council’s program coordinator from 2002-2015, found the tutors for Teresa and provided academic support.
While working through these challenges, she persevered to excel as a phlebotomist. “It is important to understand everything and not be nervous. If I am nervous, patients will be nervous,” she said.
She remembers taking a medical terminology class and comparing her notes with a classmate before an exam. “It was really strange. I would read her notes, and I am like, ‘Are we in the same class?’”
Teresa recalled. “I felt like I worked hard in the class and concentrated, but then it seemed like I was not getting it.”
She learned different strategies for remembering the technical material: Using visual cues, staying organized and planning ahead.
To make matters more difficult, she was diagnosed with Barrett’s Esophagus disease in 2010, a condition characterized by intense stomach pains. She was in the emergency room more than 50 times while studying for her degree.
“There were constant challenges everyday. I made sure the homework was done, spent time in the learning labs and balanced classwork with doctor’s appointments,” she said. “I was not going to give up. I needed the degree.”
Teresa dropped out of high school when she was pregnant at 16 and earned her high school diploma in 2008. She was also named Wisconsin Literacy’s Most Outstanding Adult Learner of the Year in 2009.
She chose the phlebotomy program because she wanted to be in the healthcare field, but also wanted a career path that supported her hands-on learning style. “I like to be running around and to not sit still,” she said.
“Some people use having learning disabilities as a crutch. I did not want to do that,” Teresa said. “I just learned to push, push and push myself. I never wanted to say, ‘I can’t do this.”
Teresa is now working on helping others achieve their dreams. Inspired by students who need extra support in enrolling and graduating college, Kozlowicz started College STILL Achievable to help students like Teresa gain their literacy skills to achieve their postsecondary goals. Teresa is now the Secretary of the founding Board of Directors.
"Cathy (Kozlowicz) did amazing work in providing volunteers and supporting me to become a phlebotomist. She supported me for ten years! I am thrilled to be on the Board of Directors for College Still Achievable to help her start a non-profit organization so many more people like me can achieve their dreams of graduating college!"