Woman who went from GED student to nurse receives award

The Lake Land College Board of Trustees presented the 2020 Pacesetter Award to Danelle Jackson, Laker Nation Class of 2007, at the March board meeting. Pictured are Dr. Josh Bullock, Danelle Jackson and Doris Reynolds, Chair of the Board of Trustees.

The Lake Land College Board of Trustees presented the 2020 Pacesetter Award to Danelle Jackson, Laker Nation Class of 2007, at the March board meeting.

The Pacesetter Award recognizes the achievements of recent community college graduates who are excelling in their careers.

Working in the health care profession during such a tumultuous time, Jackson said it has been a challenge for her, but that her faith is getting her through it.

“It’s definitely been a challenge,” Jackson said. “It’s so different from anything I’m used to doing. Nobody knows how to deal with where we’re at right now. I try to help people keep finding their hope, but also let them know it’s okay to grieve where we’re at too. I want people to be able to have faith and have hope, but also common sense and take care of themselves. Find the balance.”

Setting out on a path to go from being a GED student to a nurse practitioner, Jackson was determined to “pick herself up by the bootstraps” according to her nominator, Director of Dual-Credit and Honors Experience Lisa Shumard-Shelton.

Shumard-Shelton said she was proud to recognize Jackson for the hard work she has done, not only for herself, but for the community and for Lake Land College.

“The amount of people she has touched along the way is amazing,” Shumard-Shelton said. “That includes our own faculty and staff. Knowing her humble beginnings is what made me think she was a perfect candidate to be recognized.”

According to Shumard-Shelton, Jackson has a tireless drive to help others, both in her profession as a nurse practitioner and in her personal life as a pastor and advocate for higher education.

“Danelle Jackson is a shining example of a Lake Land College graduate,” Shumard-Shelton said. “She is very well deserving of this award.”

Jackson started her journey by taking one or two classes at a time after having dropped out of high school and earning a GED. She kept pushing forward, finishing an associate degree in four years at Lake Land College.

From there she transferred to Southern Illinois University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing. After that, she continued on to Indiana State University, where she earned a master’s degree in nursing, family nurse practitioner.

“If it hadn’t been for affordable college options with programs offering a trade that is high in demand, I honestly do not know where I would be at this time,” Jackson said. “It took me over 10 years to go from a GED recipient to a master’s degree because I had options that allowed me to work and pay for school. I am debt-free, employed and in a career that I love with an education I am forever personally indebted to.”

Seeing her efforts come to fruition, Jackson has now worked for SIHF, the Charleston Health Center, for the last six years. During her time there, Jackson has developed a very successful practice, and she said she is most proud to have cultivated a positive atmosphere with employees who value patients and provide excellent care to them.

“I have an internal motivation from God to help people out in different ways,” Jackson said. “I feel like it is my ministry in different areas. I have ministry in the workplace and a ministry through the church.”

To those considering beginning an educational journey, Jackson offered words of encouragement based on her own experience.

“Take that first step. Don’t think too far out. Just see what’s in front of you, where you feel led, and be bold enough to step out and take the risk. Then you end up finding your destiny.”

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