Woman of Grit – The Riveting Story of A Woman Who Made It Against All Odds

The holiday season is upon us again. With lots of joy, cheer and goodwill in the air, I couldn’t help but ponder on the kind of gift that would keep on giving … for eternity maybe! It was not long before a name crept into my mind.  Needless to say, this name happens to belong to a dynamic and entrepreneurial woman whose experiences, I hope, would serve as motivation to readers. I anticipate that your curiosity has been ignited. And if it has, sit back, relax and read on.

Somewhere in the quaint, compact but lively town of Kumasi in the Ashanti region of Ghana, a calm and serene daughter was born to humble Kofi and his rather charming wife, Christiana.  Before her arrival on planet earth, her father had made the decision to name her Cynthia Asare. Life was pretty much normal and filled with the usual activities that most children within her vicinity occupied their days with – school, play, church. Around the age of 11years, Cynthia migrated to Tema, a charming and cosmopolitan town located in Accra, the capital of Ghana. At Tema, she lived with external family members as her parents were then divorced. There, she completed her primary education. The wheels of life, which is often fraught with change, did not spare her. For, just as she had gotten accustomed to a sense of normalcy with life in the city, migration came knocking at her door once again. This time, she was travelling to the United States of America along with her younger sister to be with their father.

Her mind was filled with conflicting thoughts. On the one hand, she wanted to complete her middle school education where she was majoring in Business Administration. There was a sense of comfort that came with the routine and familiarity she had gotten accustomed to. Yet still, the thought of uniting with her father once again along with the possibility of an adventure in a foreign land seemed to hold great appeal. These thoughts notwithstanding, the decision to migrate had already been made for her. And so it was that on one dry harmattan day, Cynthia and her sister Patricia, boarded the Ghana Airways, embarking on a journey to an unknown land… USA.

Her initial life in the U.S was anything but fun. Cynthia witnessed and experienced the somewhat bitter side of life. Being naturally introverted, she had no friends in the land of the brave which was now her new home. Often, she would find herself reminiscing about the life she had left behind in Ghana.  Sometimes, she would cry so hard when she was alone by herself. Each heart wrenching sob was a cry for help. But, alone, in her room, no one was around to come to her rescue. Yet, Cynthia did not allow self-pity and misery to cloud her focus. Like the Lion, she stayed determined and dedicated. In her new high school – Quince Orchard High School – she had no idea about her major let alone the courses that she was going to take. The educational system in Ghana was slightly different from that of the USA which meant that she couldn’t simply continue with the same classes that she took there. Eventually, she settled on taking classes that were geared towards the business track.

Cynthia was not one of those children who knew right from childhood what they wanted to be when they grew up. She never gave much thought to it but because she came from a family of teachers, she figured she might one day end up in a role that leaned towards teaching. How right she was and how little she knew about what it would take for her to assume that role. As it were, the hand of providence was busy directing her to her life’s purpose although she wasn’t conscious about it !

A chance meeting with a sweet and compassionate woman in her neighborhood changed the trajectory of her life forever. Might I add, in a good way. The lady had been observing Cynthia for a while and had developed an interest in her. One day, while conversing with her, she inquired about the type of career Cynthia would be interested in pursuing. She had really not given it much thought and so did not have a definite answer for her. This woman, Majorie, then planted a seed in her. She said to her ,”I think you will excel as a nurse. You are compassionate , patient and a great listener”.

She  did not dismiss the elderly lady’s words. Rather, being the introspective person that she is, she pondered on Majorie’s words and then conducted in-depth research on the field of nursing. Armed with knowledge, she came to the conclusion that nursing indeed would be her life’s calling.

With her mind made up, she enrolled in Montgomery College and pursued an Associate’s degree in nursing. Thereafter, she enrolled at Mary Mount College and pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing. By this time, she had come to view the US as her home.  Feelings of loneliness and discomfort had long departed and were now hazy in her mind.

She began her career in nursing earnest and eventually earned the position as a Nurse Coordinator. Her expertise comprised bedside nursing, labor and delivery, geriatric nursing and nurse medical surgical. Cynthia loved her vocation and felt lucky to be doing what she loved. Diligent and efficient, both patients and colleagues admired her calmness and resilience. Again, as fate would have it, another angel made an appearance in her life. This time, the angel appeared in the form of a patient. One day, while checking the vitals of a patient she had been assigned to at work, a conversation ensued between the two. Ms. Mary, the patient she had been looking after, informed her that she would be a very good teacher in the nursing field. She had also grown quite fond of Cynthia and noticed her strengths.

As was the case with Cynthia, she listened. But not only did she listen but she took Action ! She researched about teaching as a nurse and again arrived at the conclusion that this was something that she could do. With confidence and dogged determination, she paid a visit to Montgomery College and applied for the position of a Nursing  Instructor. The recruitment team not only accepted her but also encouraged her to take a class in tutoring as she had no experience in teaching in a formal institution. And so it is that after her class in tutoring was completed, she began a new phase of her career life in teaching.

Despite having a 50 hour work week, she remained disciplined and consistently delivered both in her profession as a Nurse Coordinator and as a Lecturer. She never got tired of giving and finally, while continuing to march to life’s tune, she decided to set up private nursing schools within the cities of Hyattsville  and Gaithersburg located in Maryland. The decision to act arose when Cynthia observed that an interest in pursuing a C. N.A certificate course by potential students far exceeded the institutions that were available. Like the strategic thinker that she is, she saw a gap and decided to fill it … regardless of how daunting it seemed.

Both nursing schools are  now 18 years (Hyattsville) and 8 years (Gaithersburg) respectively !  At the time, information was not easily accessible as it is now. It wasn’t the era of the internet and so she would sometimes have to drive 5 hours for information that can now be accessed simply by logging onto the internet. With grit and tenacity, she gradually figured out the steps that she had to take in order to ensure that she was in compliance with the state. As cliché as it may sound, hard work does pay off … there is always a bright light at the end of the tunnel. And in Cynthia’s case, she finally came full circle with the birth of Cambridge Nursing Academy which is currently in its 18th year. Her institution has churned out lots of qualified certified nursing assistants who are making a difference in the lives of seniors within the community while earning an income.

Cynthia’s story, as condensed as it is, is simply to tell you that if she can make it, so can you. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t figured out what your life’s purpose is. Keep having faith, keep being consistent, have patience and you will also leave an imprint on others when the timing is right!

Cheers to a brighter tomorrow and yes, as Richelle E. Goodrich says, “You may be the only person left who believes in you, but it’s enough. It takes just one star to pierce a universe of darkness. Never give up.”

Written By : Sherita Brace


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