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Overcoming obstacles 


Sometimes life throws a lot at you. Just ask Lisa Vavra. Lisa was a single mother, working at a local nursing home, earning just above minimum wage, and struggling to make ends meet. She needed more. So Lisa enrolled in the Nursing program Blackhawk Technical College. 

In her last semester of general education before beginning her nursing studies, Lisa was having difficulty hearing. Her diagnosis: acoustic neuroma – a tumor of the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. The tumor eventually affected not only her hearing, but her balance as well, to the point where she needed a walker to get around. 

“They told me it would take quite a bit of time to get back going on my feet again. I wouldn’t be able to work. I had no income rolling in.” 

Fortunately, Lisa had the support of family and friends. But that’s not all, according to Tiffany Emberson, Lisa’s sister and also a BTC Nursing graduate, “[Lisa] had the support from Blackhawk Technical College students, from the teachers, and co-workers. She had a really large group of people behind her.” 

At Christmastime, a group of Blackhawk instructors and staff decided that, instead of doing a Secret Santa between themselves, they would pitch in to buy food and presents for Lisa and her daughter. Recalls Lisa, “That made me feel like I was wanted at Blackhawk Tech and I was supported.” 

Lisa defeated her illness, and pressed on to achieve her nursing degree from Blackhawk. Now, as a registered nurse at Monroe Clinic, she helps heal others who are ill or disabled. 

As a typical mother and caregiver, Lisa views her success as an opportunity to help those around her. “I can be a good role model for [my daughter] and my stepchildren. I showed them that I could still be a mom, I could still work, and I could still go to school at the same time. I just kept telling them ‘If work hard, you can get anything you want.’” No matter what life sends your way.