Jasmine found out about Charter College through a Television ad. Formerly, Jasmine had worked as a pre-school teacher, a retail department manager and was now planning on going to medical school. Because she had two small children, she decided that she needed something closer to home and, in 2005, she enrolled in the Charter College Medical Coding & Billing program in Anchorage.
On February 27th of this year, Jasmine completed her last class and graduated with honors with a BS Business Management Degree. This is a huge accomplishment considering everything Jasmine has been through since starting school.
In 2007, Jasmine’s two children were visiting their cousins and grandparents for the day. Suddenly, a fire broke out in the home and blocked off the living room which trapped her two children along with her nephew and niece. "My nephew and my son both passed away and my daughter and niece were in the ICU for six months. My son died two days after he had turned 2 years old," she said.
When the fire happened, Jasmine had just finished her Associates Degree and was in the first quarter towards her Bachelor’s Degree. She recalls how she felt when she attended her graduation ceremony in 2007. "I cried the whole time. It was hard for me because my son and daughter weren’t there to see me graduate. In my honors speech, I talked about how, before the fire, I didn’t work hard. But after the fire, I realized that I wasn’t going to let it beat me, and I needed to work as hard as I could."
Jasmine has received a lot of strength through her daughter who was considered a medical miracle. When she was in the fire, her carbon monoxide level was 1 point above fatal, and yet she was still conscious. However, she was burned over 76% of her body and continues to have surgeries every couple of months. She doesn’t have a full voice and can’t cry or scream, but she can talk in a low voice.
Now 8 years old, her daughter speaks to other children on how this has changed her life. If she sees other people with scars, she tells them that they’re beautiful inside and out and not to worry about what other people think. She also tells other children that they shouldn’t play with matches and teaches them about fire safety.
Jasmine had a baby last April. "I came to class for my final exam and had her the next day. Due to the stress I was experiencing, my daughter was born a month early. I’m glad she held out until my finals were done," she says with a smile. "The baby is perfectly fine and though she doesn’t replace my son, she has helped to heal a lot of my broken heart."
Now that Jasmine has graduated and received her degree, she continues to help and motivate others. She mentors and tutors kids who are struggling, speaks in schools about fire safety and is a Girl Scout troupe leader. She also belongs to an online grieving parent support group. "I realized that you never know how long you have. You might think there’s always a tomorrow and there isn’t. I never know if tomorrow is my last day."
Jasmine’s long-term plans are to become a medical doctor burn specialist. "Since I was little, I’ve always wanted to become a doctor. In Alaska, there are doctors who treat burns; however, there are no burn specialists and people currently have to fly out of Alaska for treatment. The survival rate would go up if there was someone local."
Jasmine would like to thank all of her teachers, the Charter College staff and her classmates for their understanding, encouragement and help. "Charter College gave me a chance to prove that I could be somebody. The instructors have been compassionate and understanding. When I’ve had problems, they’ve always been willing to help me."
Her advice for new students is to never give up. "Try your hardest. You can do it. Don’t give up on yourself. If you feel down or depressed, just pick yourself up and push through it even harder."