Taylee Pahl

I’m a college freshman at Ridgewater College in Willmar, Minnesota, but I actually came in with a lot of credits because I took college classes while still in high school. I have ADHD and a few other learning disabilities, so I knew that by taking some of the college classes in high school, I’d be able to have more support, and I trusted the teacher completely.

At Ridgewater, I’m in the occupational skills program as a full-time student, and I also work at a hospital as a certified nursing assistant. This fall, I will be enrolled in Ridgewater’s medical assistant certificate program, and eventually I plan to become a radiology technician.

My mom has played a big role in my success and my career dreams. She was the only one among her siblings to go to college and then went on to get her doctorate in education. She connected me to special education and to a teacher who changed my life.

Another one of my teachers, Amy Grussing, was a huge part of my high school success. She was my English teacher, and she was always there for me, whether I wanted to talk about schoolwork or just talk, especially after my accident.

Because I have a lot of social anxiety, my mom encouraged me to get on campus and start meeting people as soon as I got to college. Usually, I’m the person who thinks of all the things that could go wrong, and I was thinking about all my friends going off to other colleges and that I wouldn’t have any friends. But through the skills program, I just started talking to a couple of people seated next to me in a class and we’ve been friends ever since.

Between school, work, and helping out with my high school ski team, I’m very busy these days. I originally planned to become a nurse, but I was in a snowmobile accident and had a brain injury. There are a lot of other options in the healthcare field, and I definitely want to stay in this field. I used to be terrified of the hospital, but at age 8, I started going to an endocrinologist who drew diagrams and took the time to help me understand what was going on with my pre-diabetes. Now, I want to do that for others. Going to the hospital is scary for some people. Some don’t speak English, some have been through a trauma. Whatever it is, I want to make it a better experience.

For anyone starting college, I would tell them I understand that time management is hard. My first few months of school, I learned I need to prioritize every day. Once I got comfortable with the school routine, I was able to pick up more work shifts. Also, in the beginning, I went for a few months without really spending time with family and friends. Then I remembered it’s OK to take a break once in a while. And don’t be afraid to ask for help with anything. I learned that asking makes you stronger, and it sets you up for success.