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Her own best savior

Regina St. Louis (BSHM, 2023) can explain a lot. She can tell you how growing up as a first-generation child of Haitian immigrants teaches you self-sufficiency from a young age. She can explain, as a site lead for Quest Diagnostics, how to manage staff and patient care. She can attest to the challenges and triumphs of parenting three children as a single mother.

But how she ended up in an online program at University of Phoenix when she is a self-described “hands-on learner”? That, as it turns out, is a mystery even to her.

“It was just the energy,” she reflects. “It pushed me … and I never looked back.”

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Forces greater than herself

By the time St. Louis arrived at UOPX, she’d already been buffeted by life in the most tragic of ways. The birth of her first son came with complications that delayed her high school graduation. Being pregnant at 19 had also been unexpected and at least partly a consequence, she thinks, of her upbringing.

“In the Haitian community, it’s OK for the boys to do certain things, but it’s not OK for the girls,” St. Louis says. “So, there was a lot of stuff I didn’t know until I was much older. For example, when it came to dating, my parents would just say, ‘Hey, we don’t want you to have a boyfriend.’ [They were so strict], I couldn’t come to them to speak to them when I was going through anything.”

Three years later, St. Louis had her second child, a daughter this time. It was a joy that helped her through the first tragedy of her life: the death of her 13-year-old sister from meningitis. There had been a considerable age difference between St. Louis and her sister, but with four brothers, St. Louis had treasured the bond. She paused everything — including her medical assistant program — to process the grief. Eventually, she graduated and on time.

It was the murder of her brother, however, that really threatened to derail St. Louis’ life. At the time, St. Louis was working in a hospital and going to school to become a nurse. Her brother had been released from prison a week earlier when she got a call from her brother’s friend expressing his condolences.

Condolences for what? St. Louis wondered.

The friend explained: Her brother had been killed.

St. Louis thought — hoped — the friend was joking. Another brother went to the police station to make inquiries, and St. Louis dozed, dreaming of her deceased little sister.

“I happened to dream of her, and I saw her hugging [my brother], and I was like, ‘It’s not good.’ Literally two seconds later, I got a text that said, ‘Yes, it was him who was murdered,’” St. Louis recalls.

Eventually, the family learned that St. Louis’ brother had been dropping off his girlfriend at work, where the woman’s ex-boyfriend was waiting for her. He shot St. Louis’ brother and the woman. The woman survived, but St. Louis’ brother was taken into surgery and passed away. 

Winds of change

St. Louis lost herself to a hurricane of emotion. She quit her job at the hospital; she couldn’t imagine working at the same place where her brother had died. She joined an OB-GYN practice, but it wasn’t a good fit.

“The day I felt it couldn’t work, all of a sudden, an agency called me for Quest,” St. Louis says.

St. Louis joined Quest in February 2015, but she was still grieving. She threw herself into work and into raising her family of three children.

“Regina is a very hard worker,” observes St. Louis’ colleague Donna J. Best. “She is very reliable, force-driven and always striving to achieve greatness.”

St. Louis was surviving — thriving, even — but she knew she hadn’t reached her full potential. So, when a co-worker suggested that she consider using Quest’s tuition assistance to earn her bachelor’s degree at University of Phoenix, St. Louis stopped to think about it.

Find out if your employer is one of the more than 1,500 organizations University of Phoenix works with to offer education benefits. 

She’d had many pauses in her life — when her first child had been born, when her sister died, when her brother died — but this pause was different. This was one of hope. 

Christine Neider, Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science

Regina St. Louis

“I said, ‘Let me look into this,’” St. Louis explains. “Maybe I need to do something online, because with the kids, I had football, cheerleading and a junior getting ready for senior year. I was working.” There was a lot, in other words, happening in her life.

She experienced anxiety over figuring out how to go to school online, but in the end, flexibility won out. The tuition assistance Quest offered helped too. Then, of course, there was the energy of that opportunity.

“It was just strange,” she says. “All of a sudden, I was seeing University of Phoenix commercials everywhere!” 

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Taking back control

St. Louis enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Health Management program. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, of course. Like many people, St. Louis experienced depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. She picked up a second, part-time job, but her grades suffered. She went from getting straight A’s to earning an F.

“In our ethnic group, [we’re always told] to get medicine for depression is not good. To talk to somebody about what you’re going through is not good. You just have to be strong,” St. Louis explains. “I wish I hadn’t listened to that, because … my kids kept asking, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I shrugged it off, but … I wasn’t fine. Failing that last class is what made me wake up and say, ‘You’re not fine.’”

St. Louis found help, quit her second job and retook her class. She passed. And she earned her degree in September 2023.

Today, St. Louis has found her footing and met her potential. Her parents, who’d each worked two jobs ever since immigrating to the U.S., had hoped for so much for their daughter even as they suffered so much personally. When she handed them her diploma, however, they informed her they’d be keeping it.

“My parents, they’re not good with emotions, but when they [kept my diploma], I knew they were happy,” St. Louis says.

Her own kids have also thrived. Her two older children have completed or are enrolled in college and, according to St. Louis, credit her tough-love approach to education with keeping them motivated and on track to succeed.

In many ways, they are what inspired St. Louis to pursue her degree, even after all the stops and starts along the way. She wanted, she says, to show them what determination can achieve.

“Whatever pause that comes for you in life,” she says, “you can successfully get through it.”

This aligns with what Best, who’s known St. Louis for more than six years, sees in her.  “Over the years, I have seen Regina go through a lot of challenges both in everyday life and work,” Best says. “She always manages to persevere and … get the job done like it was nothing. … I know she’s not done yet. She’s just getting started.”

Elizabeth Exline

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Exline has been telling stories ever since she won a writing contest in third grade. She's covered design and architecture, travel, parenting, lifestyle content and a host of other topics for national, regional, local and brand publications. Additionally, she's worked in content development for Marriott International and manuscript development for a variety of authors. Today, if given a free hour and the choice, she'd still prefer to curl up with a good story.

 

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