Theresa Arthen works full time at a senior-living facility in Kennesaw, has been pursuing her Associate of Science in nursing from Georgia Highlands College since 2013, tutors other students in anatomy and maintains a perfect 4.0 GPA.
No wonder GHC chose her as its Board of Regents Academic Day representative.
Every year, one student from each college in the University System of Georgia is chosen to be an Academic Day representative. With her outstanding scholastic achievement and the mandatory 4.0 GPA, Arthen was a natural choice for the honor.
“When I received the phone call that I had been chosen to represent GHC, I couldn’t fight back the tears of happiness,” the Kennesaw resident said. “I was stunned and extremely humbled that my school would honor my achievements in such a tremendous way. From the onset of my college career, I have competed with myself to be the best student I can be and never imagined that others would take notice. I am thankful for the opportunity to give back to Highlands by representing them to the board of regents.”
Arthen, 22, said she received a phone call about the honor in October “as I was walking out of an especially difficult exam.”
“You can imagine the confidence booster that phone call gave me to finish up the semester strong,” she said. “RN school is without question the most challenging endeavor I have ever undertaken. It’s enough to make you want to scream, cry and laugh all at the same time, and I am crazy enough to love every minute. It’s exciting.
It’s empowering. It’s a passion. To get through nursing school, you have to be in love with the career. Being chosen for this honor truly validates all my hard work and further motivates me to become the best nurse I can be.”
Arthen and the other Academic Day representatives will be honored during a board of regents meeting and luncheon sometime in March and will be recognized again during GHC’s Honor Night in the spring.
Trying to keep so many balls in the air isn’t easy for Arthen, but she said she manages “one day at a time.”
“If you look at the whole picture, you can easily feel overwhelmed,” she said. “However, if you know the priorities, everything else will fall into place. Plan ahead but also be present, and breathe. Class, clinical, work, study, family, sleep — maybe. But as I take each obligation, pause and become grateful for these incredible blessings and opportunities, I am re-energized and inspired to put my best foot forward.”
The Maryland native, who’s lived in Kennesaw for four years, said she got her drive to succeed from her family, especially her mom.
“My mother grew up in a small village in Congo and taught me to be grateful for all the opportunities and conveniences this great country has to offer,” she said, noting her dad is a “Jersey boy.” “I feel it is a crime to waste time, talent and especially knowledge when so many throughout the world are not afforded the same education.”
Her desire to help others is part of the reason Arthen, who takes classes in Cartersville and Rome, wants to a be a nurse.
“I have always had a love for health care,” she said. “I take after my mother, who was a nurse-midwife back home in Congo. When choosing a career, I wanted to be challenged and continue to grow every day at my job. Nursing is challenging on every level — physically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually and, perhaps, spiritually, too.”
But her passion “goes beyond helping people,” she said.
“As a nurse, I will be blessed to witness the extremes of life — birth, death and everything in between,” she said. “To bring patients comfort and love during their most trying times is the greatest honor that I could have asked for in this life.”
In between working, attending class and studying, Arthen finds time to tutor other GHC students who need help with anatomy.
Arthen said she’s on track to finish her associate’s degree in spring 2018, “but I have no intentions of stopping there.”
“I will bridge to GHC’s bachelor’s program in 2019 and hopefully from there pursue a doctorate in nursing practice with a specialization in anesthesia,” she said. “Anesthesia is an art form in its own right. Nobody else in the operating room can do what CRNAs do, and few try because of the tremendous stress of the job. This intensity and high level of critical thinking, combined with the nurse’s compassion and soothing presence needed to calm pre-op patients, will constantly challenge me both intellectually and emotionally.”
She’s already making strides toward future employment as a nurse.
“I have been invited to participate in a student-nurse externship at Kennestone Hospital during the remainder of my undergrad,” she said. “I am beyond excited for the many career opportunities that lie ahead with WellStar [Health System] once I complete my RN.”
Arthen is thankful for her experiences at Georgia Highlands.
“I am so grateful to have found this wonderful college, but it’s more than that,” she said. “GHC has become my home and has given me my wings. I have met some wonderful professors and lifelong mentors here.”
She also said she owes “all my success to my supportive family, especially my mother and father.”
“They have been here for me every step of the way, and I would be lost without them,” she said.