p>Andrea Schmidt was born to help others. Now, she is helping her own cause by working toward earning a bachelor's in healthcare administration from Saint Leo University.

At 44, the native of El Paso, Texas grew up in San Antonio before relocating to Ladson, S.C. She is an alumna of MacArthur High School in San Antonio. She is the mother to two "fur babies" – a pair of felines named Tipsy and Panther.

With a laugh, she says that she and her mom, Andreatte, answer to "junior" and "senior," respectively since their names are so similar.

"My biggest supporter would be my mom," she confides. "My mom has faith in me that makes me have faith in myself that I can achieve my dreams."

The daughter of parents who met in the U.S. Army, her mother served as a nurse while her dad was a police officer. Her grandfather was also an Army paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division over Normandy during World War II.

Choosing Saint Leo's Bachelor's in Healthcare Administration

Schmidt initially started taking classes at another college. But she didn't get the good vibes she was looking for.

"My mom and I thought I should try to find a Catholic university," she explains. "One day we were driving and saw a billboard for Saint Leo. I found out that it is a nonprofit university as well. To me, when a university is nonprofit, they are in the business to truly help students achieve their goals. I honestly could not have made a better decision."

In 2015, she enrolled in the online bachelor's in healthcare administration program. It was an experience she had as a youngster that drew her to this field.

"When I was 14, my mom would pick up my brother and I from school and take us to her work. She was a nurse. One day, I shadowed her, and when she had to draw blood from a patient, I said, 'I'm out of here.' So, I went up front to the desk and saw how the staff interacted with the patients and dealt with insurance. I realized that this was something I'd love to do because I could help patients in a different way than being on the medical side."

Benefits of Online Education

She admits that it took a little time to get used to the delivery of online education, but once she did, it was smooth sailing.

"On my first day of online classes when I logged in to the site, I was so nervous about it. But my mom reminded me that I wasn't the only one feeling that way. So, I stood my ground and found my groove after I figured out how to best manage my time."

Now, she describes how an online education fits her lifestyle so well.

"I love online classes because I can work on them when I have free time," she says. "When you're in a traditional classroom setting, it can be hard to totally focus because you're not really in control of your environment, and you might be worrying about things at home. For me as a caregiver to my mom, I can take her to the doctor or shopping when I have to and then can do my schoolwork on my schedule."

She recalls that during Hurricane Michael in 2016, her professors were extremely helpful.

"I had to call one of my professors about needing some extra time, and they were very accommodating with that," she says.

While she believes her entire curriculum has been rewarding, she thoroughly enjoyed a class on Native American history she took with Dr. Greg Carman.

"Not only did Dr. Carman make me feel incredibly comfortable in that class, but I learned about the struggles that my maternal great-grandmother and grandmother went through as they were Cherokee Indian. I knew that these two women were strong, but after taking this class, I realized just how strong they really were. I had so much fun in that class and learned a lot."

A Truly Unique Academic Experience

Even as an online learner, she feels like she is truly connected to both fellow students and her instructors.

"Belonging to a university that helps support you when positivity begins to dwindle means belonging to a unit that resembles a family. Saint Leo makes me feel like I am part of another family."

To her, the patience of her instructors has been second-to-none.

"All of my professors have allowed me to ask multiple questions if I don't understand something," she says. "They have been so kind and giving in terms of helping me when I need it."

Being inquisitive is a must when in college, especially when pursuing an online education, she says.

"The one piece of advice that I would give to a new student is to never be satisfied. Always ask questions. Even if you think you are going to look stupid in asking, there is always someone else who is thinking of the same question."

She says Saint Leo's core values align so well with how she was raised and what kind of person she is today.

"Integrity and respect are at the top of my list. If you don't have either of those in who you are, then you don't have much. I try to instill these core values in everything I do."

Professional Pursuits

For 10 years, she worked for Roper St. Francis Hospital in Charleston, S.C. handling insurance claims for patients. She then spent eight years in retail before turning her attention to caregiving.

"I helped take care of my grandmother who had Alzheimer's disease while my grandfather was in the hospital with sepsis," she says. "I've been taking care of my mom now for some time. The best thing about this work is that you get to spend quality time with someone you love. There is no better feeling than helping a loved one."

After completing her bachelor's in healthcare administration, she plans to pursue a master's degree from Saint Leo as well. Ultimately, she hopes to be the first person in her family to ever attain a doctoral degree.

In terms of career goals, Schmidt would love to work for a healthcare provider that keeps the community at the forefront.

"I would love to work for a doctor who puts a large percentage of his or her profits back into the community," she says. "My mother and I were both victims of domestic violence, so working for someone who supports these victims would be wonderful."

Cross-stitch, gardening and laughter are her favorite hobbies when she's not studying or working.

A Broader Goal

Completing her bachelor's in healthcare administration from Saint Leo is just one step toward an even more rewarding life for Schmidt.

"Earning this degree means getting a career I want, a more comfortable lifestyle for my mother and myself and being more financially secure."

Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Andrea Schmidt and is used with permission.