Thursday, December 15, 2022

CVTC River Falls nursing student to graduate after starting out in women’s shelter

Article Photo - CVTC River Falls nursing student to graduate after starting out in women’s shelter

Carrie Kittleson has overcome abuse and homelessness and is set to graduate from Chippewa Valley Technical College at River Falls with a nursing degree on December 20.

Carrie Kittleson said she would never have imagined her life going the way it has.

The 40-year-old mother of three was abused and cheated on. The man said he would follow her if she left. A local women and children’s shelter was the only safe option for her and her children.

“I’m definitely living a very different life than I thought I would be,” she said.

Despite seemingly having everything going against her, Kittleson took every opportunity offered to her, and she will graduate from Chippewa Valley Technical College at River Falls as a Registered Nurse on December 20.

Kittleson graduated from River Falls High School, got married, started having children and worked three jobs as her husband went to college. A month before he was supposed to graduate, she left him.

West Central Wisconsin Community Action Agency (West CAP) took Kittleson under its wing in the shelter.  

“When you’re in that kind of shelter, West CAP sets up goals for you,” she said. “I went to CNA school and was surprised I passed.”

She worked in the field for a bit at Presbyterian Homes in New Richmond and decided to become a certified medical assistant.

“I thought, what do I have to lose?” she said. “They set everything up for me. The worst I could do was fail. I passed, and I couldn’t believe it.”

She used studying to occupy her mind. She said if she was reading, she wasn’t thinking about the divorce or the tough situation she was in.

“I just focused on learning,” she said. “It was a healthy distraction.”

In the meantime, West CAP was helping her pay for a home and a vehicle. She was thriving under their care, and the program continued to help support her and her children.

West CAP continued to help her set goals. The next step was becoming a registered nurse.
Kittleson realized she would have to take all of her general courses to complete her nursing associate degree. And although her youngest child was starting kindergarten and her dad had recently passed away, she pushed herself to start.

Then Covid happened.

“That was so challenging to have to teach all the kids at home and do my work too, but I was already committed at that point,” she said. “I had already completed a year. I just had to keep going.”

Recently she passed one of her final tests to solidify her spot at graduation.

“I honestly think I’m still in shock,” she said. “I can’t believe I did it. Did that really just happen?”
Kittleson said she’s grateful to West CAP for the immense amount of help and confidence the organization gave her to keep going, and to CVTC for the knowledge.

“With West CAP, just having someone check in on me and counting on me to get this done – I felt like I owed it to them to do a good job and succeed because they were helping me,” she said.

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