USF Nursing Student Cheryl Combs Represents USF at Graduate Tampa Bay Event
University of South Florida College of Nursing student, Cheryl Combs, represented USF students at the Graduate Tampa Bay event in March, an initiative to increase the number of Tampa Bay area residents who have earned college degrees.
College presidents from the Tampa Bay area, including Judy Genshaft, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of the USF System and President of the University of South Florida, launched the Graduate Tampa Bay campaign, which aims to target the 700,000 residents in the Tampa Bay area who have some college, but no degree.(left to right) USF President Judy Genshaft, USF Nursing student Cheryl Combs, & Hillsborough County Community College (HCC) President Ken Atwater during the Graduate Tampa Bay Event. Photo: Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications
This event seemed fitting to Combs, who dropped out of college after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and was forced to briefly put her college degree on hold.
“I was in my late twenty’s when I was accepted into the Hillsborough County Community College (HCC) nursing program,” Combs said. “I remember calling my family and saying ‘I am going to be a nurse!’ It was my dream.”
But Combs, just on her second semester at HCC, had to temporarily put her dreams on hold due to ovarian cancer. Combs, who underwent a major surgery and a 4-month session of chemotherapy, never stopped believing and hoping she would one day return to school again.USF Nursing student, Cheryl Combs, representing USF students at Graduate Tampa Bay event. Photo: Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications
“My dream of becoming a nurse was so strong that I found the strength to get back into nursing school, only 2 weeks after my last chemo session,” Combs said. “I had to get special permission for my oncologist. I went to school wearing a wig because I was shiny bald. It paid off. I ended up graduating the following year, and received my RN license a few months after that.”
But she did not want to stop there. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees were always on her mind. Despite her desire to continue, again, she had to stop for four years due to health and financial reasons.
In 2010, she felt ready and applied at USF College of Nursing. “When I received my acceptance letter to the university, I was so thrilled,” Combs said. “I was a Bull! I was so excited to be a Bull!”
After another year off, Combs is now taking classes full time, and expects to graduate in the near future.
“Even though I took that year off, I am glad that I started back when I did because I am now the first class to start the new RN-BS program,” Combs said. “It is a great program. I can already see that the assignments are making me a better nurse.”
Combs has great plans for the future. She wants to become a professor, and inspire future nurses to never give up on their hopes and dreams.
“I also want to foster people in the nursing program to strive to be the best nurse that they can be,” Combs said. “Through my story, I want to inspire others, and make a difference in their lives.”
The new RN to BS major is a revolutionary new program where Registered Nurses may complete a bachelor degree in patient and staff education, leadership and management, or clinical excellence. It also prepares the student for a seamless transition into graduate nursing education at USF.(left to right) Cheryl Combs and USF President Judy Genshaft representing USF at Graduate Tampa Bay event. Photo: Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications
Graduate Tampa Bay, a Tampa Bay Partnership initiative, targets students like Combs who have some college, but never finished. The program is part of the Talent Dividend, a national competition launched by CEOs for Cities in 2011 to challenge more than 50 U.S. cities to devise creative ways to grow the population of college-educated adults.Cheryl Combs (5th from left) with other Graduate Tampa Bay event participants. Photo: Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications
For more information about Graduate Tampa Bay click here.