Today, Vivica Montgomery-Gibson is a regional care coordinator for the Maternal Child Team at CareSource, a leading nonprofit managed care company based in Dayton. But that’s not where she honed her skills; she attributes her successful nursing career largely to where it all began, as a student at Sinclair Community College in the late 1990s.
Montgomery-Gibson enrolled in Sinclair after serving a tour of duty in the U.S. Navy and in Desert Storm. In the military, she was a hospital corpsman, starting IVs, administering medications, suturing wounds and placing catheters. But after she was discharged, she needed more training if she were to continue in the nursing field. “I knew I couldn’t do those things in the civilian sector without a nursing degree, so I decided to enroll in Sinclair when I came home,” she says.
Montgomery-Gibson had enrolled in a four-year college after high school, but she lost her financial aid and had to return home. Because she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life, she decided to enlist in the Navy. During her tour of duty, she gained insight and direction. “When I left the military, I had a family and needed to work and to go to school,” she says.
In Sinclair, she found the perfect fit, because it was affordable and close to home in Dayton. The G.I. bill helped pay her tuition. Montgomery-Gibson’s spent four years at Sinclair, as there was a two-year waiting list to enroll in the nursing program. “I used the first two years to get all of my general classes out of the way so I could concentrate on the nursing courses once I was accepted in the nursing program,” she says.
After graduating from Sinclair in 1999 with an associate’s degree, Montgomery-Gibson went on to earn two bachelor’s degrees, one in business and one in nursing, and a master’s degree, from other schools. “I wanted a bachelor’s in business because I had considered opening my own business to help the homeless and veterans,” she says. And while she no longer works bedside, she does work behind the scenes to help promote positive birth outcomes and reduce infant mortality in Ohio.
Of all the colleges she has attended, she says Sinclair holds a special place in her heart. “I thought Sinclair was an excellent school and that it had an excellent nursing program,” she says. She honed her skills in its labs and garnered a good deal of hands-on experience at its clinical sites. She applied her skills at her first job in a nursing home and continued to gain skills at Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton, where she provided care to critically ill patients. Her Sinclair experience was enhanced by the fact that everyone was pulling for everyone else, she says. “We all wanted each other to succeed, so there was a lot of support,” she says. Montgomery-Gibson remembers spending many a night and weekends with fellow students studying in small groups. “The support and camaraderie was really strong,” she says.
Now a mother of six, Montgomery-Gibson also attributes her success in life to her amazing blended family. “I couldn’t have done it without my husband and children,” she says. Montgomery-Gibson believes the new Health Sciences Center at Sinclair will be a great asset to students. The dedicated center is a three-story building that will bring all of Sinclair’s health programs together in a state-of-the art facility that features shared lab space to better integrate programs. The goal is to lead the charge in educating a world-class inter-professional health care workforce. She says the camaraderie she experienced as a student was critical, and having a center for students pursuing health care majors to work together in the same facility “will only help facilitate the learning experience and the collaborations.”
After graduating high school in 1972, Ronald Patrick’s first choice was to study medicine and become a doctor. When he couldn’t afford the tuition, his second choice was to become a physician’s assistant, but he couldn’t find an affordable program close to where he lived. So he instead chose nursing and earned an LPN degree from the Dayton School of Practical Nursing. His first job after high school was as an LPN at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dayton. However, to advance his career, he knew he needed at least a two-year degree and so enrolled at Sinclair Community College.
At 63, Patrick, of Englewood, Ohio, is proud of his educational and career choices. Thanks to his background, “I have been able to work in long-term care, intensive care, medical-surgical units and as a supervisor and in administration.” He’s currently employed as an RN-MDS coordinator for the VAMC in Dayton, where decades ago he got his first job. While working at the VA, Patrick graduated with two degrees from Sinclair -- an associate’s degree in liberal arts in 1977 and a degree in nursing in 1979. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Miami University in Oxford (1984) and a master’s degree in administration from Wright State University in Dayton (1990). It took him 15 years to complete his education because he continued working full time while studying.
Patrick says getting his experiences at Sinclair provided the building blocks he needed to proceed through higher education. “It gave me the humanities and scientific backgrounds I needed to succeed,” he says. In addition, he says, he couldn’t beat the cost. “I paid $10 a credit hour and 25 cents to park,” he says.
When Patrick was a nursing student in the ’70s and ’80, he was one of the few men in his classes. But he never felt out of place at Sinclair, or anywhere else, he says. He also appreciated that Sinclair provided tutors and clinics “where you could go for help if you were having difficulty with a particular subject,” he says. “The teachers had a way of making the students feel comfortable and not intimidated. They’d answer your questions and make sure you understood what you needed to know.”
During his career, Patrick worked at other VA hospitals in Indianapolis and upstate New York, but he came back to the Dayton VA when his father, a veteran of World War II, became ill. Although Patrick never enlisted, he feels a kinship with veterans because, in addition to his father, he has several relatives who have served in the military, including uncles who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. He says working at the VA “is a good way of giving back to those who have served, as well as to your country and your community.” The VA also provided tuition assistance.
Patrick is no longer involved in direct patient care, but in his job as RN-MDS coordinator, he helps veterans get the health care they need. “I’m involved in patient assessments and inputting data to be sure we’re meeting the requirements for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements,” he says.
When Patrick began his education at Sinclair in 1974, the school’s Dayton campus was only partially completed. “It had a wonderful library, and I loved to go there to study,” he says. He says he’s excited about Sinclair’s new Health Sciences Center, a three-story building that will bring all of Sinclair’s health programs together in a state-of-the art facility that features shared lab space to better integrate programs. The goal is to lead the charge in educating a world-class inter-professional health care workforce.
Patrick is thrilled to see Sinclair continuing to expand and meet the needs of its health care students. When he went to Sinclair, “it was the place to meet people, learn about who you were, learn what you wanted to do,” he says. “It was a fantastic experience,” he says, adding that the new center will greatly enhance the student experience.
Tracey Olekas, of Miamisburg was 39, out of work and a few months pregnant with her third child when she enrolled in Sinclair Community College for a second time in January 2008. Her thinking? “No one is going to hire me, so I might as well take a couple of classes and see how it goes.” That turned out to be one of the best decisions of her life, says Olekas, now 48. Although it took her five years to complete her associate’s degree in allied health sciences, her education led to a job she loves. Today, she is a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) at Alternative Solutions Home Care in Dayton.
Olekas has always been a people person, and her previous two jobs, from which she was laid off, were in insurance, where she had lots of customer contact. Before enrolling in Sinclair, she researched possible majors and “wanted something in the medical field and something that would lead to jobs that would be in high demand and offer decent pay.” A certificate in occupational therapy was just the ticket she was looking for, she says. Olekas provides occupational therapy to patients -- some of whom are recovering from medical procedures and some of whom have chronic conditions -- in their homes. It’s her second job as an OT assistant; when she graduated from Sinclair in January 2013, her first job was at nursing home, where she gained the experience she needed to move up to her present position.
At Sinclair, she found a mentor in the health sciences department in professor Nan Shoemaker. “She made me want to be a very good COTA, and to learn as much as I could,” Olekas says. Olekas will never forget Shoemaker’s early warning to her students: The COTA program is pretty intense. And Olekas found that it was – not only because she was going to school as an older adult, but also because she had three children, one of whom was an infant, to care for. She didn’t attend Sinclair full time until she was able to enroll her youngest son in preschool. And even then, it was a challenge -- she remembers sitting at her older children’s ballgames and doing homework in the stands. “I had to learn to use my time wisely,” she says. “And I had some pretty late nights.” The ability to take some classes online was helpful, too, she says.
The first time Olekas enrolled in Sinclair, after high school and after a year at Bowling Green State University, she was a teenager and didn’t graduate because she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. Now she’s proud that she can show her children that it’s never too late. “I like that I can tell them I went back and finished my degree, even later in life,” she says.
That she made Dean’s List throughout her time at Sinclair and graduated with honors is a source of pride, she says. “When you go back to school as an adult, it means more, and you want to really work hard and do well,” she says.
Olekas is excited about the new Health Sciences Center, a dedicated three-story building that will bring all of Sinclair’s health programs together in a state-of-the art facility that features shared lab space to better integrate programs. The goal is to lead the charge in educating a world-class inter-professional health care workforce. Having everyone enrolled in the health sciences in the same area will provide great support for students, she says. “And anything that supports health sciences majors is great.”
Kurt Labig, of Greenville, enjoyed his work training racehorses. But at 27, he knew it wasn’t a “career” for a family man. “I wanted to do something that would give me a career, and the medical field seemed the way to go,” he says. His wife and older daughter have asthma, and helping them at home helped him decide that respiratory therapy was “the way” he was looking for. Once Labig made that difficult decision in 2004 to change fields, choosing Sinclair Community College that fall was the easy part, he says. Sinclair and its respiratory therapy program had such a great reputation that he knew having it on his resume would help him land a job in his field.
It took Labig four years to complete his associate’s degree, but when he graduated in 2009, he immediately landed a job as a respiratory therapist at Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton. Labig believes his courses provided a great foundation for his entry-level job. “Everything I learned at school, I do every day,” he says. “As a therapist, you learn things over the years on your own from experience. But without that foundation, I wouldn’t know anything.”
Labig, now 38, is finishing his bachelor’s of science degree at Kent State University and will graduate in December. His Kent State education is a good complement to his time at Sinclair, he says. “The Kent State program is more concentrated in management,” says Labig, who took his courses online. And the management education helps with his current job as a respiratory care supervisor at Wayne Healthcare in Greenville.
While at Sinclair, one professor stood out to Labig: Louie Conn. “My whole second year in the respiratory program at Sinclair, I had him and he was fantastic,” Labig says. “He answered all my questions and always took the time to help me with everything I needed.” (Conn has since retired.)
In his first two years at Sinclair, Labig worked transporting patients at Kettering Medical Center. But his last two years, he found he couldn’t work and keep up with his class load and home responsibilities. “Some classmates did, but I had a family, and it was too much,” he says. Labig was working at Good Samaritan when he got a call from the director of the respiratory care department at Wayne about an opening there. The director reached out to Labig because he had done a clinical at Wayne while a student at Sinclair. “She knew I was from Sinclair and recognized that I had a good foundation,” Labig says.
Labig is excited about Sinclair’s new Health Sciences Center, a three-story building that will bring all of Sinclair’s health programs together in a state-of-the art facility that features shared lab space to better integrate programs. The goal is to lead the charge in educating a world-class inter-professional health care workforce. “I think it will help students get a more hands-on feel for what the real world health-care experience is like,” he says. “You can read about it in books only for so long until you have to go out and do it.” When he was a student, Labig recalls, “We had one lab. It was good, but it was crowded.” The new lab space will allow for smaller classes and give all students that “one-on-one training that you need,” he says.
Persistence and support. Patricia Jackson, DDS, who graduated from Sinclair College as a registered dental hygienist in 1998, attributes her professional and personal success to these traits. After graduating from Sinclair, she earned her DDS degree from The Ohio State University and went on to a job with the Indian Health Services (IHS) that she loves. “Having people around me that supported my dream was really important; all along the way I had wonderful mentors — not only professors at Sinclair, but the people I was going to school with,” she says. “We all had to struggle, and we were all trying to get this degree to make our lives better. That, in itself, was very, very motivating — having like-minded people around me.”
When she graduated from high school in Dayton, Ohio, Jackson wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. After working two or three minimum wage jobs at a time for a few years, she “realized life would be more fulfilling getting a college degree and doing something I liked.” She wanted a career in health care and considered nursing, but then spent time working for a family friend as a dental assistant. “Within the first month, I decided this was what I wanted to do,” she says.
She enrolled in Sinclair’s dental hygiene program in 1995. To pay for tuition, Jackson, 25 at the time, took out student loans, was awarded several small scholarships and some financial aid, and worked part time as a dental assistant. “It was tough, working and going to school,” she says. “But it’s those kinds of challenges that help you grow as a person.”
Through Sinclair Professor of Dental Health Sciences Sheranita Hemphill, RDH, MS, MPH, Jackson discovered a love of community dentistry, which focuses on general dental care for those who typically have limited access. “Dr. Hemphill taught community dentistry and radiology, as well as clinical instruction,” says Jackson. “She sent us to perform outreach projects with Head Start programs and nursing homes. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a community dental hygienist. After I graduated, I worked as a dental hygienist part time in a community clinic in Dayton for 10 years. When I decided to go to dental school, it was with the intention of continuing to work in public health.”
Jackson entered The Ohio State University’s College of Dentistry in Columbus in 2008 at age 39, and graduated with a DDS degree four years later. Unable to find the right job in Dayton, she applied to the IHS and landed a job providing dental care to residents of the Navajo Nation in Chinle, Arizona. “It was the first time I had gone West,” she says. “I fell in love with the land, learned about a new culture and fell in love with the work.” After four years in the stunning but remote Chinle area, Jackson transferred to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she works with the Pueblo tribes. Now 47, Jackson, an avid hiker, looks forward to exploring the New Mexico landscape and continuing her work with the IHS.
“The education I received at Sinclair was the foundation for my career as a dentist, and I use my dental hygienist skills every day,” she says. During her time at Sinclair, Jackson’s class space was on the third floor of Building 4, “separate from most of the other allied health professionals,” she says. Jackson was pleased to learn that the college is constructing a dedicated Health Sciences Center, a three-story building that will bring all of Sinclair’s health programs together in a state-of-the art facility that features shared lab space to better integrate programs. The goal is to lead the charge in educating a world-class inter-professional health care workforce. ‘Learning about other disciplines is important, both for education and for your future career,” she says. “I interact daily with other health professionals,” she says.
Francisco Marshall, DTR (dietetic technician registered), took a 12-year pause to pursue professional dancing between his first stint at Sinclair Community College and his second, and during that time, he earned an associate’s degree in applied science. “I started at Sinclair right after high school, and I was going for electrical engineering, but it wasn’t for me,” he says.
He left Sinclair in 2001 and began a career as dancer, specifically a breaker, or b-boy. (This athletic form of street dance is sometimes called break dancing, but those who practice it prefer the term breaking.) He competed in b-boy competitions, taught dance, did performances and found ways to give back to the community with his dance crew, Circle Nerdz, which he formed in 2005 with his cousin. And they didn’t only dance; the group has received multiple awards for community service in Marshall’s hometown of Dayton. Marshall loved dancing, but his mother worried about his future. “She reminded me there are no 401(k)s in breaking, and I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s right,’” he says.
Marshall had been working part time as a dietary aide and had grown to love nutrition. He also had a personal interest in the field. “My dad had severe diabetes, and it eventually took his life. I wanted to be able to help people like him,” he says. In 2013, he again enrolled at Sinclair, this time in the Dietetics & Nutrition program. He was working full time and going to school full time, which he concedes was tough. “My mother and my sister were my biggest supporters, always pushing me forward,” he says. “When my dad passed away, my mom worked all day, every day, to provide for my sister and me. When I was going to school, I wasn’t just doing it for myself, I was also doing it for my mom.”
He also found mentors in his Sinclair professors. “Dave Clark and Nora Schaefer were my two main professors, and they taught us at such a high level that when I actually got a job, I felt overprepared,” he says, noting that he also received excellent clinical instruction from his two adjunct professors, Fran Angelo and Maura Hamilton.
Marshall graduated from Sinclair in 2015 and is working as a registered dietetic technician at Southbrook Care Center, a skilled nursing facility in Springfield. There, he uses the skills he learned at Sinclair to do dietetic assessments of patients and provide them with nutrition education targeted to their individual conditions. He still finds time to perform with Circle Nerdz and teaches dance, and once again, he’s both working and going to school full time. This time, Marshall is pursuing a bachelor’s degree through an online program at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti and is on target to graduate from that program in 2020. “My next goal will be to go for my master’s. I want to be a professor and teach nutrition,” he says.
Marshall was pleased to learn about Sinclair’s plans for its new Health Sciences Center, a dedicated three-story building that will bring all of Sinclair’s health programs together in a state-of-the art facility that features shared lab space to better integrate programs. The goal is to lead the charge in educating a world-class inter-professional health care workforce. “It will be great having all disciplines of health sciences within a centralized location. That way, students in the health sciences can learn from one another and see differences from the perspectives of different disciplines,” he says.
He also praises Sinclair’s supportive atmosphere. “I think Sinclair is an awesome school and I would recommend it to anybody,” he says. “One thing I really like is that, compared with other universities, it seems more personal. If you have problem, they’ll sit down and work with you.”
Shannon Thomas got his start at Sinclair with a degree in printing technologies. Co-founding his business, Four Ambition, in 2011, he specializes in screen-printed apparel and posters, embroidery, buttons and graphic design.
Designed to be at Sinclair, Shannon took no opportunity for granted. Yearning for additional challenges in his major, he used the printing lab and resources provided to print projects that prepared him for his future beyond Sinclair. “Sinclair has an amazing graphics department,” Thomas complimented. Shannon noted that this would not have been possible without the support of his professors. “I felt like a lot of the teachers and professors cared more than most other colleges,” he said.
While in the lab one day, Shannon received a phone call from a local employer to schedule a job interview. The printing press was running in the background and made a good first impression to the employer, Oregon Printing. Shannon worked there for four years before opening Four Ambition.
Running his company now, Shannon leads current students with his bright insights. “Take advantage of all the opportunities that Sinclair offers,” he said. “Take some fun classes and get to know the people you’re in class with.”
Shannon returns to Sinclair periodically as an adjunct professor teaching a printing class.
“It’s my way to give back to the students and help prepare them as my professors did for me. I’ve been working in the industry for 10 years now and I just like to be able share that knowledge I’ve obtained. And at the same time, it reignites my passion for it to see others with the same passion,” Shannon said.
Frank Martinez worked odd jobs, mostly in construction, until he decided he wanted more. He is now a project coordinator for Montgomery County, and his time at Sinclair is what got him there.
“I could have just stayed in construction labor, but I wanted to be more involved with planning, design and administration,” he said. “A degree made that possible.”
Frank was able to successfully achieve two degrees—Architecture and Civil Engineering—both within the same year of 2002.
“Receiving an education from Sinclair has opened the door to various job opportunities that I would not have been considered for without a degree,” Frank said. “I feel Sinclair gave me a great foundation to build my career upon.”
Bethany Farrier found a home at Sinclair, earning her Associate of Arts in Visual Communication and meeting the contacts that would refer her to Hooven-Dayton Corporation, where she now works as a Sales & Marketing Assistant. "Even though I’ve never been one of those people who liked school," Bethany says, "I had a lot of really great teachers that enhanced my experience at Sinclair."
"I was on the Dean’s List every quarter. Since I enjoyed school, I tried harder, and it paid off. I felt fulfilled, receiving that letter," Bethany says, "especially since my grades in high school were only ever average."
Sinclair's accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design made her degree and education valuable, and pairing that with her student employment in Sinclair's eMarketing and Publications department gave her a foundation of work experience that she's building upon today. "The knowledge I gained was useful and immediately applicable to the professional world: Not just theory." she says. She remembers her friend playing Daniel in Once on This Island, and also the day she modeled for her boss, Kathy Kiggins. "It was a really fun day, going around campus with a bunch of other students, enjoying the nice weather and taking a few photos," some of which were published in Sinclair in Mason Catalog, and on the pillars in the bookstore.
Bethany suggests that students should meet as many people as they can. "Sinclair has such a wide variety of people, and you never know which of them could impact your life," she says. "I've been an HDC team member for more than a year, and it's all thanks to Sinclair Community College.”
“I dreamt when I was nine years old, on West Third St. and going to Jackson School, of living in Africa and doing volunteer work abroad,” said Pat Carter. “Sinclair was my gateway to learning and finding my potential in life’s pursuit.”
Pat and her husband, William, recently returned from serving in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the West Indies for the U.S. Peace Corps. Pat hosted a call-in radio show about HIV/AIDS while William taught welding safety and regulations.
It’s always been a team effort for Pat and William Carter. More than 60 years down the road, and with 44 years of marriage along for the ride, Pat said, “I give much credit for our adventurous spirit to my education and teaching time at Sinclair.”
Pat left a lucrative job in sales via radio to become a full-time Sinclair student and ended up becoming an adjunct professor and Alumni Association board member. Since then she has retired from owning a business consultancy for more than 35 years and earned her master of arts degree from Antioch University McGregor.
With Pat’s dyslexia, Sinclair provided support for testing and proctors through disability services. She said this was invaluable. Although her degree was individualized for International Marketing and Political Science, Pat took swimming classes; her favorite class was logic, and she attended free lectures from guest speakers as well. For Pat, time spent at Sinclair is best used “to explore and discover the other sides of life and learning.”