Trying college again pays off for Bombay native
Saranac Lake – Courtney Oakes has a message for anyone who tried college once, failed, and thought they’d never get another chance to go back to school.
“If you didn’t have a good experience and, for whatever reason, you stopped, don’t let that one experience sour you on going to college,” she said. “Reflect on why it didn’t work and what you could do differently, then try again.”
Oakes, who’s from Bombay in northern Franklin County, speaks from her own experience. After graduating from Salmon River Central School in 2013, her first attempt at college didn’t work out as she planned.
“I was three years into the pre-med program at a four-year university in Connecticut,” she said. “I had a super ambitious goal, but it didn’t stay that way. I didn’t complete my degree. My GPA fell below 2.0 and, per their standards, I wasn’t allowed to receive financial aid, so I withdrew.”
In fall 2016, Oakes transferred to North Country and entered the Health Sciences program, starting first in Malone, then later moving to Saranac Lake. The 23-year-old is now in the Licensed Practical Nursing program and, after graduation this spring, plans to enter the RN program at the college. She hopes to later pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing as she moves toward her career goal, becoming a pediatric nurse.
The experience at North Country has been very different than when she was at that bigger school, Oakes said.
“It was so much more welcoming here,” she said. “It’s a much tighter-knit community where you feel like you have more support. And I knew the nursing program here was really good, so it felt like a new start for me.
“When I graduated high school, like a lot of people I wanted to get out of here and see something new. But sometimes coming back to your roots is the best thing you can do. And that’s what it was like for me here at North Country.”
Beyond her studies at NCCC, Oakes is very involved in the campus community. She’s a resident assistant in the college’s residence halls, a peer mentor for incoming students, works part-time in the Financial Aid department and recently became the student representative on the college Board of Trustees. In the latter capacity, Oakes is serving on the search committee for the college’s next president.
“Getting involved is the best thing anyone can do to make the most of your college experience,” she said. “I was a hermit in high school, but here it was so easy to make those connections and make new friends. It started with one thing – becoming a peer mentor – and the rest followed after that, and it was so easy to do here.”