Heike Arrowood didn’t let obstacles stop her from pursuing her educational goals; she smashed through them. Fueled by her desire to succeed and a jumpstart from Barton Community College, she now holds the highest level of academia attainable in the nursing field— a doctorate.
She met her husband while he was stationed in Germany and moved to the United States in 1993 and landed at Fort Riley. She had two children to raise and spoke almost no English but that didn’t hold her back. She got started on her first Certified Nurse’s Aide class in early 1994, but that was not as easy as it sounds.
“I didn’t really know anything about the school system in the United States,” she said. “Things were very different in Germany for women. You didn’t have a lot of options. I had to get the courage to do it but I knew if I could pass this class, I could do anything.”
She learned about Barton Community College’s program via word of mouth and she leaned on the people at Barton at Fort Riley to get acquainted with the system. She worked on her associate of general studies and CNA coursework while at the same time working part-time, raising her children and over time, steadily improved her English.
She had to take her coursework six credit-hours at a time due to all of her other obligations, but she passed her CNA class, then moved onto the Certified Medical Assistant program, which she also completed while at Barton.
Arrowood credits her professors at Barton for encouraging her to succeed despite her struggle to learn English, which she remedied by taking speech classes at Barton.
“They paved the way for me,” she said. “I had such great support from my teachers. My teachers at Barton bombarded me and told me I needed to go on and continue my education. They supported me and listened to me even though my English was so broken. They told me I could succeed.”
She then moved on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse at Manhattan Technical College and earned her Registered Nurse credentials at Kansas Wesleyan University. After that, she relocated to Georgia and attended Georgia Southern University and earned her Master’s in Nursing and became a Nurse Practitioner. Finally, after almost 20 years she earned her Doctorate in Nursing in 2012.
Arrowood said everyone has challenges but those who rise above them will succeed.
“We were poor, I couldn’t speak English, we lived in a trailer park and I was making four dollars an hour,” she said. “These are the kinds of things that stop most people from going to school, but now I make six-figures.”
She said success is possible for everyone and has one piece of advice for anyone who is at the bottom of the mountain looking up.
“Set your goals as high as possible and stay with it,” she said. “Don’t stop going to school because then you’ll be making money and won’t want to go back. Even if it’s just a few hours, keep going. Don’t worry. You will make it.”
Arrowood has travelled internationally to learn about alternative medicine, she has had academic articles published in English and works as a clinical instructor. She repeated that her instructors at all stages of her education are what made the difference for her.
“The teachers that I have met along my journey have significantly contributed to who I am today,” she said. “They showed me what was out there, told me not to stop and guided me where to go.”