Sandra (Sandy) Connor

In her own words

At 17 years of age, I found myself pregnant and no longer in school. I had not completed Year 11. My story is not new or even original, and while I am certainly not special I hope that I may provide just a little motivation to those women who might find themselves in similar situations believing that they no longer have choices.

For I long time I also felt that way. My life consisted of my son, followed down the track by marriage and two more boys. During this time I worked at several jobs: sales, child care, cleaning etc., while working hardest at being a supportive wife and good mother. I’m not sure that I achieved either of these, but I have not had any written complaints! Due to my husband’s career, we moved towns a lot. While this definitely provided moments of stress especially as the boys got older, for the most part it was wonderful. We met some amazing people and experienced some wonderful communities; we have no regrets about choosing this life.

My La Trobe journey began as a result of one of these moves. In 1997 and 1998 I was working in Ouyen - a small town in the Mallee region - as a Casual Ambulance Officer (now known as CERT). I loved this job. Prior to finding myself pregnant at 17, I had wanted to become a nurse, so assisting the local ambos was not only fun and challenging but it reminded me of what I wanted to be when I grew up.

When we moved from Ouyen to Numurkah, the option of working for Ambulance Victoria no longer existed. I was devastated. So I decided to go back to my original plan and become a nurse. Of course, by this time nursing training had moved from hospital-based training to a Bachelor Degree, and I was going to have to go to university.

As I already mentioned, I never completed Year 11, so the journey was not easy.  I began with going to TAFE to get my Graduate Equivalency Diploma, then decided to enrol in Certificate IV Division 2 Nursing at TAFE, as the university was a two hour commute away. That completed, I began work at an acute hospital in Shepparton. A couple of years later, the hospital offered me a scholarship to upgrade to Registered Nurse - how could I refuse? So now off to La Trobe I go to complete the Bachelor of Nursing Div. 2 Conversion.

Two years later, in 2004, I became the first person in my family to be awarded a Bachelor Degree.

I worked, we moved, I worked some more. One of my favourite parts of nursing on the ward was preceptoring the student nurses when they were on placement. I loved being able to support them and guide them through what could be a very stressful time. I always felt it such a privilege to be helping to build the future of our profession.

Not long after our last move to Mildura in 2008, I was very fortunate to be offered some clinical supervision work with La Trobe students. I felt that I had the best job in the world; to be able to work with the students in the clinical setting and have the time to really focus on each of them. I then added some sessional teaching in as well and did both for several years. Then one day a permanent lecturer’s position became available. I didn’t even consider applying for it. In fact when a colleague asked me if I was going to apply, I gave her about 20 reasons why I wasn’t qualified enough.  How could I, a teenage mother who didn’t finish high school ever aspire to be a university lecturer? Well luckily for me, my husband made me apply –and I got the job.

So, a teenage mother who hasn’t finished high school does have choices. They are not always easy to see and they are rarely easy to achieve, but they are there.