Hawkeye Community College degree will allow student to work less, be 'more present' for family

Hawkeye Community College graduate Diamond DeRosiers posted on Friday, May 14, 2021 in  College News

WATERLOO—Between classes, homework and jobs, college can be a difficult balancing act.

That’s what Diamond DesRosiers found after enrolling in Hawkeye Community College’s two-year medical assistant program. She was working two jobs – about 80 hours per week – while completing the prerequisite courses ahead of the program’s clinical component.

DesRosiers was just starting that second year last fall “and then, at the end of August, DHS gave me my two younger brothers.” The Iowa Department of Human Services approached the 26-year-old about becoming the legal guardian of her half-brothers, who are now 12 and 14 years old.

“There was just some issues going on with them and their dad,” she said. DesRosiers was asked by DHS to “take them or we’ll find a place for them,” she said. “So, I took them.

“It’s definitely been tough,” the Waterloo native admitted. “According to my Apple watch, I average about four hours of sleep per day.”

But the new responsibility didn’t get in the way of finishing her degree. DesRosiers will be one of 280 Hawkeye graduates participating in commencement ceremonies Saturday. They are among 860 students at the college who finished degrees or programs this year.

The medical assistant degree will allow her to work in a medical facility’s administrative, clinical or lab settings. Instructors at Hawkeye encouraged students to take a test to become certified medical assistants in the next six months – something she plans on doing to further her career options. She called the just-completed training roughly equivalent to a licensed practical nurse, but a medical assistant can’t do tasks related intravenous therapy.

She can now let go of the overnight shift five days per week at a gas station convenience store and the weekend technician position at a pharmacy. With just one job, she’ll have more time to care for her brothers.

This wasn’t the first time DHS had asked DesRosiers to serve as a guardian for younger family members — including her two youngest brothers.

In 2016, she was a close to finishing a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. However, the 22-year-old wasn’t able to complete all of her assignments after being asked by the state agency to care for all six of her younger brothers, something she did for eight months. They had been living either with their dad or grandmother, but at that point she said neither household was “deemed emotionally fit” for the boys.

Along with getting the boys to school each day, she was involved in court hearings over her guardianship. That was later reversed and the children returned to their dad until she was awarded permanent custody of the two youngest. She said the four other boys are living with their grandmother.

The two boys living with her are doing better in school now than they previously had been. She said they are looking to the future, including colleges they’d like to attend and the careers they hope to have.

“I’m happy that they’re actually able to be kids and things are getting better,” said DesRosiers.

While attending UNI, she had a series of jobs at shelters for homeless people and abused women and a residential facility for children. She expected to seek employment in the social work field after graduation, but began rethinking that after leaving the university so she could be more involved with her brothers’ lives.

“With social work, I didn’t really have a work-life balance,” she noted, which often meant taking work home with her. “For me, that just meant there was a lot of off-the-clock casework.”

She wanted to find a career that would “allow me to be more present to the boys.” That led DesRosiers consider medical programs at Hawkeye. But she still plans on tying up loose ends at the university.

“I kept the teachers up-to-date on what was going on,” she noted, after the new responsibilities pulled her away from classwork. This summer, she plans to finish the series of uncompleted assignments that will allow her to receive the degree in psychology.

Andrew Wind, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier


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