MCC student plants tree in honor of Health Science Institute

It really means a lot to MCC staff and faculty when a student goes out of their way to say thank you—but Susan Kurtenbach, MCC-Penn Valley student, really touched our hearts by having a tree planted in honor of MCC’s Health Science Institute.

Susan, 53, enrolled at MCC last year through the MoHealthWINs program, which helped pay for her tuition and books.

But more importantly, her experiences with MCC’s faculty and staff have been overwhelmingly positive: “My instructors got us through some tough times,” Susan shared.  “Last year, we had a lot of snow days over the spring semester.  With classes like cellular biology, missing days makes it even harder.  But the teachers handled that and other challenges with a lot of grace.  They’re very focused on helping students.”

So what inspired her to have a tree planted?

“My mom raised me to write thank-you notes.  She always told me it’s important to take the time and effort, to let someone know they’re appreciated.  In fact, she reminded me that I should thank my instructors somehow.  I wasn’t sure how to do it.  A note didn’t seem like enough.  Then I heard about the Arbor Day Foundation and I thought, ‘Perfect!’”

Perfect.  Funny, that’s what we thought when we first met Susan– that she was a perfect candidate for the MoHealthWINs program.  She is a nontraditional student and a displaced worker (in addition to teaching Pilates, she worked for years at Midtown’s Wild Oats Market which closed in 2010).  She already had her bachelor’s degree, but a lifelong interest in alternative/complementary medicine led her to investigate retraining for a healthcare career.

MoHealthWINs helped Susan take get some prerequisites under her belt as she decided what career path to pursue.  Her instructors encouraged her to go into nursing, which she feels will give her the most employment opportunities.  She is now on her second week in the Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program and applying for scholarships to help her finish out.  As she looks forward to graduating this spring, she has even conducted some tours of the HSI building.

The tree will be planted as part of a national reforestation initiative.  It will be located in either a national park or in an area that has been damaged by insect infestation, disease or forest fires.

“A tree is an incredible symbol for so many things—strength, looking towards the future,” said Susan.  “But it also represents interdependence.  We rely on trees, and they rely on us in an on-going cycle.  It’s that way with teachers and students, we rely on each other.  Also, the planting and nurturing aspect, that’s what instructors do with students—they nurture our talents.”

Thank you so much, Susan, for this beautiful and thoughtful gesture!