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Jolene Jackson shines among McAuley College grads

Thursday, December 4, 2014

For a woman who subscribes to the notion of pacing herself, Erie’s Jolene Jackson, 26, has a long list of accomplishments, not the least of which is collecting her associate degree in nursing from Mercyhurst University this month.

Yes, it took her four years to earn a two-year degree, but she had more on her plate than any traditional student and most nontraditionals. She had three young children to raise, an ailing great-grandfather to take care of, part-time jobs, part-time schooling, a divorce, a remarriage, and a powerlifting championship mixed in here and there.

“I just learned to take everything nice and easy, one day at a time, one class at a time, one test at a time … looking at the whole picture was just too overwhelming,” she said.

Jackson began her Mercyhurst journey in 2010 as a member of the inaugural class of Mercyhurst at the Booker T. Washington Center. She graduates Dec. 19 from Mercyhurst’s McAuley College of Associate Degree Studies and is this year’s recipient of the Mercy Award, an honor given to the student who best exemplifies seizing the opportunity and serving as an inspiration for others. She will also deliver the student commencement address.

“I have wanted to be a nurse since I was a young girl and to think I’m finally there is surreal,” she said.

John Parente, who heads Mercyhurst’s program at the BTWC, didn’t doubt her resolve for a minute. “I remember when Jolene first started with us; she was determined to be a nurse and she never gave up that dream, no matter what obstacles presented themselves.”  

Jackson spent a year at the Booker T. Washington Center, which afforded her the flexibility of taking classes at night while still keeping her day job.

After a year at the center, where she completed most of her core classes, she transferred to the North East campus to begin the more rigorous nursing regimen. But, life dealt her some curves, like losing a good friend in a tragic car accident, and she was challenged to continue. 

“Between taking it slow, having family support, and my faith in God, that all helped me through,” she said.

When she graduates next week, she’ll celebrate with children Jalaya, 9; Jonathan, 6; and Juliana, 5; along with her husband, Erie Explosion football player Terry Jackson, whom she married in September.

Jackson said she’d like to get a job at St. Vincent Hospital. “I did all my clinicals there and really liked it,” she said. “Plus they have a graduate nursing program that eases you in.”

For Jackson, it’s a formula that seems to work … nice and easy does it.