47-year-old Sparta resident finds new direction at Roane State
By Kim Swindell Wood | May 9, 2018 4:27 am
Rita Neal’s world came crashing down when her vehicle was rear-ended by a teenager going 55 mph.
She had just gotten off work and was on her way to pick up her children when the teen slammed into her, causing serious injuries, including a broken neck.
“It was a really bad wreck,” Neal said.
Months of hospitalization, therapy and rehabilitation followed. Neal was told she’d be unable to resume her job in a White County shirt factory.
It was a sister, Sandra Roach, who suggested that Neal change careers and go back to school. Neal said she opted to enroll in Roane State’s respiratory therapy program.
“When I started going to Roane State, I’d been out of school so long I was uncertain I could make it,” the 47-year-old White County resident recalled.
Then, there was a problem with dyslexia that had plagued her in high school and included difficulties retaining information unless she was read to out loud.
“I had no clue how to even write well,” Neal said.
That’s when Ann Berry, director of the Learning Center at Roane State’s Cumberland County campus, came to the rescue.
“She (Berry) helped me tremendously and pointed me in the right direction,” Neal said.
During her renewed education, Neal made the 75-mile commute to Roane State’s Knox County Center for Health Sciences for respiratory therapy classes and also drove to the college’s Roane County campus to take math and second-level anatomy and physiology classes. She took her initial anatomy and physiology course at the Oak Ridge campus.
Neal said she enjoyed taking the Composition I class with her daughter, Jennifer Mason, at the Cumberland County campus.
“I’ve met wonderful people at every campus,” she said. “The teachers are all good.”
Neal says she’s now on track to obtain an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy in May 2019 and hopes to land a job at either Cumberland Medical Center or Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge.
She and her husband Tommy Neal, have two children, Jennifer Mason and Sherry Spivey; three stepsons, William Neal, Joseph Parham and Thomas Neal; and a stepdaughter, Lindsay Smith. There are eight grandchildren.
Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at www.roanestate.edu/reconnect.
Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has campuses in Crossville, Harriman, Huntsville, Jamestown, Knoxville, LaFollette, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge and Wartburg.
For more information, visit roanestate.edu or call 1-866-GO2-RSCC (1-866-462-7722).