San Jac Certified: The light at the end of the tunnel

08.08.2016 | By Calyn Hoerner

PASADENA, Texas - While working as a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA), Abbie Dillard befriended a fellow CNA. Her new friend was attending San Jacinto College with plans of becoming a registered nurse (RN), and suggested that Dillard do the same.

“She encouraged me to attend San Jacinto College and become a nurse,” said Dillard. “She told me I was smart and had the skills. The only problem was I had a fear of needles, but I got over that quickly.” Dillard enrolled in classes at the College while maintaining her position as a CNA and soon became a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN).

“Getting my LVN at San Jac helped me earn the money I needed to continue my education and become an RN,” Dillard continued. During her time at San Jacinto College, she found a mentor in Dr. Karen Alexander, who served as director of the nursing program at San Jacinto College at the time.

“Dr. Alexander took me under her wing almost immediately,” commented Dillard. “She was the one who always pushed me to continue my education and never give up. I went with her to Reno, Nevada for a service-learning project, an experience that helped me realize I really was on the right path.” Dillard is still working with her mentor, as she is now at the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) preparing to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in nursing with a minor in health management.

“Abbie was a delight to teach as she worked diligently to retain all the information that she was provided with during the nursing theory and clinical courses,” said Alexander, who is now the director of the nursing program at UHCL. “I found her to be very proactive, positive and zealous to continue her education at the RN level. Abbie’s ability to apply her nursing knowledge to the fullest in a real time environment became evident during all her clinical assignments. Abbie has consistently shown progression, and she always strives to raise the bar of excellence in nursing.”

After earning her Nurse Practitioner License, Dillard hopes to open her own nursing home. She has been passionate about caring for the elderly ever since she was a child. “When I was younger my great-grandma had bladder cancer, so I was always helping my grandma take care of her,” said Dillard. “I have always loved elderly people, and that situation made me realize how I could help care for them.”

Dillard currently works as the overnight charge nurse for the post operation unit at the Bay Area Regional Medical Center. In this position she is in charge of all activity and patients within the unit. If Dillard ever has any problems or dilemmas, she is still able to rely on her old professors from San Jacinto College for help.

“I keep in contact with most of my professors from San Jac,” noted Dillard. “If I ever have a question, I always go to them for advice.”

Dillard has inspired many at San Jacinto College since her graduation. She is often asked to come back to the College and give speeches, telling her own story and offering words of encouragement to others following in her footsteps. “The key is that you just can’t give up; you have to reach for the stars,” she says. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Your education is worth all of the stress and tears.”

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.