Kay Marie Richards accomplished something over the summer very few people in her situation would have the confidence and courage to do.
The single mom to three young children earned a degree in Practical Nursing from Lancaster County Career & Technology Center while working full-time, attending school full-time, raising children, and maintaining a home for her family.
Just a few years ago, the dream of earning a nursing degree and being independent almost seemed impossible. Kay fell into the repeated habit of falling in love with men who were abusive to her. One such relationship ended when she could no longer take the abuse and abruptly left their home with no plan and nowhere else to live.
“Essentially, I was homeless,” Kay said. “I house hopped from friend’s house to friend’s house.”
It was an experience that haunted Kay, and she was determined to do right by her children. She found a job as a telemarketer and saved money for an apartment. Eventually, she got a job at a group home for adults with intellectual disabilities where she learned to take accurate medical notes, organized medicine, and escort clients to medical visits.
Kay’s passion for helping others inspired her to become a nurse. But at the same time, she had fallen for another man who mistreated her, and it almost destroyed her dreams and the stable life she had built for her kids since fleeing the last toxic relationship.
“I was supposed to go to school but went to Las Vegas with him instead,” Kay said. “I wanted to make it work because we had a child together. But I realized it wasn’t worth it to give up my dreams for someone who lied to and cheated on me. I left him for good and went back to school.”
At the critical time when Kay almost chose to stay in a dysfunctional relationship rather than going to nursing school, Tricia Nabors, the Executive Director of New Choices, was the guiding voice for Kay that empowered her to make the right choice.
“Tricia is so supportive and caring,” Kay said. “She is honest and real, and I appreciate that. She was so angry with me when I went to Las Vegas. She helped me to remember what I learned in New Choices — I am the only one who has the power to change my life and to make it what I want it to be.”
Kay’s journey to New Choices began as a means to earn tuition reimbursement and scholarships for school. What she came away with was so much more.
“I learned so much about myself and grew as a person,” Kay said. “By the end of the two weeks I was in tears – I didn’t want it to be over. I had gotten so close to everyone in the class.”
Kay will launch her nursing career at Lancaster Rehab when she starts full-time in October. And the hard-working mom will also continue to put in hours at the group home – a job she loves.
In hopes that her story will help others, Kay gives back to New Choices as a guest speaker. She will pursue an R.N. degree next year.