“Don’t give up. If you feel like you’re failing or not doing as well as you thought you would, look for guidance. Someone will give you help, like my instructors did,” Terra State alumni and perseverance award winner, Elizabeth Zelms, recommended.

Elizabeth Zelms is a perfect representation of “when life gets you down, brush yourself off and try again.” Regardless of how many times she had to relocate, she was determined to find a career she loved. Zelms spent a lot of time moving around the country with her family. She was born and raised in Nebraska and when her mother got married Zelms’ family moved to Ohio.

At the time, Zelms began taking classes at Owens Community College in Early Childhood Education. She also met her boyfriend, now husband, along the way. When her stepfather transferred his career to Kentucky, she transferred her credits to Jackson Community College and finished her Early Childhood Education degree there. Returning to Ohio after graduation, Zelms started her first career in Early Childhood Education. After working with children for 14 years, she was ready for something different.

In high school, she considered going into the health field, but struggled to find a university that would fit what she wanted. So instead, she decided to take the path to Early Childhood Education. When she finished that chapter of her life, Zelms decided to explore the health field once more and search for a small community college where she could save money and get a degree in Health Information Technology (HIT).

That’s when she found Terra State Community College’s HIT program. Working part-time at a before and after school program and attending classes at age 54 was not easy, but she is thankful for the people who helped along the way. Zelms expressed her gratitude to one of her favorite teachers, Judy Smart. “I remember there was a time in class when I just broke down and cried because I wasn’t getting the concept and she helped me through it.” Another hurdle she had to jump was figuring out how to focus after discovering she had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) at age 45. Sitting at the front of the class became her new favorite thing.

Despite any setbacks, Zelms maintained a positive attitude and had a lot of fun. She liked spending time with her classmates and winding down in her yoga class. “I really liked coming to school even though there were days when I was only here for an hour and a half, and I drive 30 minutes from Oak Harbor. It was still worth it throughout my four years here,” she said.

One of her favorite classes was first aid. “I remember doing my final project in my First Aid class on Davis-Besse and I live in that area. We had to do a disaster plan, and it turned out my instructor’s husband worked at Davis-Besse. So, I had to do a good job on that! I did and got an A in the class,” she said.

With her good grades, she joined the honor society Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) and, when she graduated in spring 2017, she was awarded a perseverance award. When Zelms found out she won the award, she kept it a secret and made it a surprise for her father at commencement. He was “absolutely floored” when he heard her name as the winner.

Upon graduating in May, she has continued working at the before and after school program and has applied for jobs in the health field in Wood County, Fremont, and other surrounding areas. She left us with one last thought about Terra State. “I like the comradery with the students, the classmates, and the instructors. I kind of wish I was coming back because of the new housing going up. It would be kind of neat to live on campus!”