After relocating to Central Texas on the recommendation of friends, Nelson decided to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a nurse. She had been out of school for more than 20 years, but she was determined to succeed.

In 2013, Nelson began taking prerequisites for the nursing program at Temple College, and in 2014 she  was accepted into the Associate Degree Nursing program. It wasn’t easy, though. She juggled a daytime job at Wal-Mart and took classes in the evening, as well as being a wife and mother.

Nelson persisted, and in May 2016, she graduated with honors, passed her boards, and officially became a registered nurse. In June, she began working at Baylor Scott & White Hospital as a Graduate Nurse making $24.24 an hour − a considerable increase over the minimum wage salary she was making at Wal-Mart.

Nelson’s accomplishments recently earned her an Excellence in Workforce Achievement Award from Workforce Solutions of Central Texas. The award is given to those who demonstrate academic excellence, exemplary study/work habits, potential to succeed, problem-solving skills, progress to self-sufficiency and responsibility.

Margaret Mark, another 2016 graduate of the ADN program, also received an Excellence in Workforce Achievement Award. She moved from Houston to attend Temple College after serving as an EMT for 23 years and working as a research coordinator at Hermann Hospital.

“Getting my nursing degree was the next logical step for me,” Marks said. “I probably should have done it before.” Marks now works at Baylor Scott & White Hospital in Temple.

The 2016 Workforce Preparation Award went to Barbara Cromwell, who serves as Temple College’s Adult Education Instructor for Milam County. Since Temple College began providing GED classes to customers at the Workforce Solutions Center in Rockdale last year, Cromwell has helped four customers receive their GED certification.

“Barbara’s passion for teaching and learning is contagious,” said Julia Cardona, a workforce development specialist based in Rockdale. “She took a program that was about to die and revived it.”