From Diagnosis to Degree

 “After 20 years of marriage and three children, I found myself going through a very difficult and unexpected divorce. I was a full-time mom with three teenagers and no college education,” said Carrie Newman. This was the reality she faced before coming to Utah Valley University. “Eventually I had to get a job, which was really hard. I started out as a part-time cashier at Walmart making $9.00 an hour. I knew I was worth more than that, so I decided I would move up the ladder until I got to the top. I worked really hard to move up and finally got promoted to store assistant manager.”

While Carrie was working as an assistant manager, her health started to decline — forcing her to take a leave of absence. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and realized she couldn’t continue her work. During her leave of absence, she spent most of her time learning about fibromyalgia and finding steps to return to good health. “It took me six months to get back on my feet, but instead of going back to my previous job, I went back to school.” She chose to major in community health.

“As a nontraditional student, I was worried at first about how I would be treated by the traditional students,” said Carrie. “I soon found out that UVU is truly an inclusive university.” She began making friends while participating in her classes and found that her age and circumstance really didn’t matter.

With education as her focus, Carrie let go of her worries and made the most of her time and opportunities at UVU. She became president of the UVU Community Health Club and participated in monthly service projects to benefit the community. One of her most memorable projects was cleaning the Enricle Home in Provo, Utah. The club walked away with a greater sense of how to advise those in the LGBTQ+ community about health-care services.

Carrie and two other students also were given an opportunity to create a health program that encouraged women living on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation in eastern Utah to get cancer screenings. Carrie and her teammates took third place in the competition after presenting their plan at the Society of Public Health Educators competition.

Carrie’s experience at UVU wouldn’t have been possible without generous donors. The clubs, programs, and experiences that enhanced her education were all supported by community generosity. Because of UVU, Carrie’s life has come full circle. She once spent hours each day researching how to get herself back to full health. Now, thanks to UVU and its donors, she plans to use her education to help inform others of health-care opportunities.