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Eight isn’t enough for Roberts
Photos and Story by James Hill
Vernonia’s Tera Roberts is studying to be a nurse practitioner at Oregon Health and Science University’s School of Nursing. She is a former PCC student who earned a 3.8 grade-point average. As a result, she is the recipient of a Ford Foundation Scholarship and won an international award through Soar Optimist, a support organization for heads of households returning to education.
Tera Roberts, 37, did all this after her husband abruptly left her and her eight children.
"When their father left, I came to sign up for school because I wasn’t getting a lot of support being on food stamps," she said of how she came to PCC. "When the first day came, I got to campus and was scared to death. But I met a couple of girls aged 19 and we had some things in common. It was nice to fit back into society and see that my brain still worked."
It took courage to drive all the way from Vernonia to the Rock Creek Campus and enroll at PCC. The Aloha High School graduate, though, felt at home at the college when staff and faculty alike guided her through the admissions and registration process. Roberts also received support through the Women’s Resource Center and biology instructors like Diana Corwin and Valory Thatcher, to name a few.
"I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for PCC," she said. "I miss PCC because the teachers were very flexible. It’s really set up for people like me. A lot of people at the college helped me succeed."
In addition to a full load of classes, Roberts had a full load of chores when it came to home life. By herself, she takes care of her children – ages 17, 15, 14, 12, 11, 8, 6 and 5, and is in charge of renovating her Vernonia home. This means she not only must find time to study and landscape her new yard, but care for the eight kids, including shuttling them to Boy Scouts and football practice.
"I thought that this would work and I can do this," Roberts said of the hectic lifestyle. "I felt confident knowing things can work. It’s a whole other lifestyle. You learn quickly what is important and what is not. And I learned quickly too that control is an illusion. But you do the best you can and roll with the punches."
Roberts said that one of the biggest plusses in coming to PCC was the affordability. Without the low tuition and costs, she said she’d have never had the opportunity to pursue her dream of nursing and providing for her large family following the departure of her husband.
"It was a huge help because I didn’t have the finances," she said. "If PCC wasn’t here it would have taken a lot longer. It would have probably have taken twice as long to complete my studies if I had gone someplace else."
That would have meant Roberts wouldn’t graduate in 2009 from OHSU. But now she will and when she’s finished she would like to volunteer her time at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital at OHSU and earn her master’s degree. Not only would she be providing for her family but also giving something back to her community.
"I’d like to practice in Vernonia and Banks as a nurse practitioner once I graduate," she said. "I’d like to get into home care, which would be great."