A young mother chooses a career in health care and creates a better future for herself, and her daughter
Markeitah Henry has a knack for seeing the big picture. Take the difficult decision she made at the age of 20 to leave her daughter in New Jersey when she moved back to Alaska to pursue a career in the health care field: While leaving Zaelynn with family in New Jersey was hard, Markeitah knew that in the long-term, it would be the best move for both of them.
“I wanted to give my daughter the best life possible,” Markeitah explained.
Now or Never
Her own childhood was tough. Her mother passed away when Markeitah was very young, and Markeitah became a mother herself at the age of 16. Despite the obstacles thrown in her path, she enrolled in an alternative school for pregnant teens, then moved to New Jersey to finish high school and earn her diploma. She juggled motherhood, school, and work all at once, graduating in 2017 at the age of 20.
“I told myself, if I’m going to college, it has to happen now,” Markeitah recalled.
Her grandmother had told her about a great health care training program in Alaska, available at CITC in Alaska. With training through CITC’s Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG), Markeitah could launch a career that would allow her to give Zaelynn the life she wanted for her daughter.
“I wanted to show my daughter that I could do this.”
But committing herself fully to her education meant she would need someone else to care for Zaelynn. And Markeitah’s family — not to mention free childcare services — were in New Jersey, not Alaska.
That’s when she made the tough decision to leave Zaelynn in New Jersey.
“It made sense, even though it was difficult,” she said.
Finding Her PATH
Even though her daughter was far away, Zaelynn was always Markeitah’s main motivator as she worked her way through HPOG’s PATH Academy.
“I wanted to show my daughter and my family that I could do this,” she shared. “The majority of my mom’s side of the family hasn’t finished school. They dropped out and never got their GED.” Markeitah was determined to set an example, not just for her daughter and her younger siblings, but for teen moms.
The PATH Academy is usually an HPOG enrollee’s introduction to the world of health care. Markeitah quickly earned certifications in mental health first aid, bloodborne Pathogens, Basic Life Support, and First-Aid through PATH. She went on enroll in the Medical Insurance Coding and Billing program at Alaska Career College (ACC). HPOG works in collaboration with third-party partners like ACC to provide the best opportunity for each participant.
“Education can be stressful for all students, and Markeitah was no exception,” said Sherry Marvin, an ACC senior instructor who became Markeitah’s favorite teacher. “But Markeitah learned to change anxiety into opportunity. She tackled each course with poise, energy, and professionalism.”
Throughout Markeitah’s training at ACC, CITC’s HPOG team monitored her progress and helped her stay on track.
“Immediately upon meeting Markeitah, I knew that she was a determined young woman,” said HPOG Employment Specialist Katrina Tysinger. “Markeitah emphasized the importance of establishing relationships in her chosen field. She strategically cultivated rapport with supervisors at Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) during her ACC externship.”
Her networking paid off: Today, Markeitah works as an assistant medical biller for ANTHC/Alaska Native Medical Center. “It’s my first real job,” she enthused.
Her greatest accomplishment, though, is creating the future she envisioned for her now four-year-old daughter. The two will be reunited this summer when Zaelynn moves back to Alaska.
“HPOG is amazing!” Markeitah said. “If it was not for this grant, I wouldn’t have been able to afford school. I am thankful for HPOG; it has benefited my life tremendously.”