Britainny Palmer may never use her degree due to illnesses that prevent her from working, but she was determined to graduate as an example for her three children and will celebrate this accomplishment on Dec. 13 during Polk State College’s 119th commencement ceremony.
During her second pregnancy in 2014, Palmer was diagnosed with incurable diseases including ulcerative colitis and autoimmune hepatitis – a rare, noncontagious liver disease. She also suffers from vasculitis, which causes fatigue and chronic pain.
She enrolled in Polk State’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management in summer 2017.
“This was no easy decision with my illnesses, raising my children, and still working, but I was determined to show my kids that having a degree and completing what you started is important,” Palmer says.
“This was no easy decision with my illnesses, raising my children, and still working, but I was determined to show my kids that having a degree and completing what you started is important.”
Her illnesses aren’t the only obstacles she has had to overcome.
Palmer grew up as a military brat and enrolled at Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School in 2008. The change in lifestyle and academic responsibility, however, caused Palmer to struggle in the program. She did not achieve an Associate in Arts (AA) degree like many students in Polk State’s charter schools but continued to work on the degree and received her AA in 2014.
“I thought I was done with school, as I had a child in 2009 and my next in 2014. School was too much trouble, and I could never fully commit to it,” she explained. “But after years in the workforce, I realized to truly advance, I would need my bachelor’s degree.”
She jumped into a full course load, balancing her studies with a full-time job in a college’s financial aid department and caring for her two young children. The flexibility of Polk State’s online courses made Palmer’s busy schedule manageable.
At first, her passion for budgeting and helping other students through financial aid motivated her to persevere on her path to a bachelor’s degree, but she soon became pregnant with her third child and her health took a turn for the worse.
“Some days I couldn’t get out of bed because the sickness and fatigue were so severe,” Palmer recalls. “Then when I gave birth to my daughter, she was placed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for three weeks while I was also admitted to the hospital. I developed even more autoimmune illnesses that, to this day, doctors can’t tell me what exactly is wrong.”
She left her job and contemplated whether she would continue on her higher-education journey.
Her mother, Professor of Nursing Jerri Palmer, encouraged her to keep going, and Britainny Palmer realized she wanted to be an example for her children if she ever needs to give them an extra push to complete their higher education.
“I am very proud of her and the example she has set for not only my grandchildren, but also for anyone reading this story,” says Jerri Palmer, who will proudly hand her daughter her diploma at graduation. “She may never have the opportunity to use her degree, but she persisted, showing the importance of an education.”
“It may have taken me 12 years and quitting five times to finally get to where I am today, but I have proven to myself and to my children that you accomplish things you may never think you can do.”
Britainny Palmer enrolled in the bachelor’s degree program in hopes of creating a better life for her family, and although she may not be able to do so through career advancement as originally intended, she has accomplished this goal by setting a powerful example for her children, illustrating the transformative power education has on generations.
She is already talking to her children about college. Her 9-year-old wants to be a banker, while her 4-year-old insists she will become a mermaid one day.
“I will always encourage them to pursue their education,” she says. “It may have taken me 12 years and quitting five times to finally get to where I am today, but I have proven to myself and to my children that you accomplish things you may never think you can do.”