We’re proud of the ambitions and accomplishments of our students and alumni – learn some of their stories in our monthly feature:
Special Edition Student Spotlight: Mother-Daughter Learners
Desiree White-Foster ’22
Associate of Science in Nursing program
Desiree White-Foster will celebrate her 50th birthday this month, and at this key milestone in her life, has so much to look forward to. A lifelong learner, she earned her bachelor’s degree twenty-eight years ago, followed by two masters’ degrees. Raised in the Bronx, for sixteen years, Desiree taught students with special needs and disabilities along with general education Culinary Arts including Food & Nutrition in the New York City & New Jersey Public School Systems. After a layoff in 2012, Desiree decided to pursue a career in nursing, inspired in part by the example of her mother, a retired RN, and aunts who work in the field.
While working as a Travel Practical Nurse, various leaders recommended PA College as the ideal place for Desiree to continue her education. During this time, she has also developed several connections with other students who like her, are adult learners and career changers. Now enrolled in our Associate of Science in Nursing program, Desiree is eager to build on her experience teaching nutrition to work in the Bariatric field toward her goal of become a Certified Bariatric Nurse.
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be a struggle for all of us, and Desiree points to this as one of her biggest obstacles as a mom, wife, student and professional. The past nine months were especially intense – as Desiree completed a contract assignment on the COVID-19 unit of an acute/long-term care facility in Chambersburg, PA. Coping with long hours away from home and quarantining at home to protect her loved ones was hard, but Desiree is grateful for the support of her husband, parents and extended family. She adds: “What keeps me inspired is my children. I want to lead by example; it is never too late to do what your heart desires if you are dedicated, motivated and passionate. I cannot wait to graduate and take on an advanced role as a Registered Nurse doing what I love the most – helping and healing people.”
In her downtime, Desiree enjoys cooking for her family, indulging in self-care activities such as facials and massages, and doing make-up – which she did professionally for a time, and now keeps up with for fun. She lives in South Londonderry Township with husband, a retired New York City Corrections Officer, son, a student at Bishop McDevitt High School, and daughter, a dean’s list student in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at PA College.
Destinee White-Foster ’23
Three-Year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program
Since the fifth grade, Destinee White-Foster has been planning out her future career. First inspired by television shows such as NCIS and Criminal Minds to work on criminal investigations as a forensic scientist, she later developed a strong desire to care for the sick and injured. Today, she hopes to combine these two passions to work as a forensic nurse. In addition to treating patients who have been victims of abuse or neglect, Destinee aspires to use this role to bridge the gap between medicine and the criminal justice and legal systems to ensure that justice is properly served.
This dedication to service has been evident ever since Destinee’s early days. While still living in the Bronx, she was a member of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., contributing to service projects including organizing Thanksgiving meals for those experiencing poverty and facilitating holiday activities for underprivileged children. While attending high school in Harrisburg, PA, Destinee was a member of the Youth Community Development Team, helping to raise $5,000 for an organization that addressed childhood illiteracy. Destinee began college at Old Dominion University in Virginia, where she volunteered with GLOSS (“Girls Live on Self Success”), on projects such as mentoring children at a local school.
The coronavirus pandemic also impacted Destinee’s professional journey. Last year, she decided to return home enroll in PA College’s three-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Impressed by our graduates’ outstanding NCLEX results, Destinee was also motivated by this opportunity to study alongside her mother, and shares: “My mother is such an inspiration because she does not let her age define her. Through her dedication, zeal, and passion she has continued her studies to pursue her dreams.” The transition to online learning hasn’t been easy and Destinee has struggled to adapt. Yet she has found ways to stay on track, including adopting a calendar planner to organize her time and framing this challenging year as a motivating test of her character and commitment to her goals.
Destinee enjoys exercising, making keto-friendly meals and “retail therapy” in her free time. She also hopes to inspire others through her new YouTube channel, “Dose of Destinee,” where she offers content promoting healthy lifestyles, beauty, fashion and vlogs. Ultimately, Destinee shares that what keeps her inspired is her family: “I want to show that their endless efforts and sacrifices are greatly appreciated. Earning this degree will allow me to display my deep gratitude and is a true testimony of my hard work throughout my entire academic career. My favorite quote is Psalm 46:5: ‘God is within her; she will not fail.’”
Terri Bickert ’79, DNP RN NEA-BC
Nursing Practice Consultant, Geisinger Health System
Thinking back to the start of her nursing education at the then Lancaster General Hospital School of Nursing, Terri Bickert ’79 describes herself as an “ornery kid with some growing up to do.” And over the course of her three-year program, she did just that, receiving the kind of education that has prepared her for a long and successful nursing career. Terri recalls that it was during her critical care rotation at Lancaster General Hospital that she discovered her passion – and more than 20 years of caring for critically ill adults at the bedside would follow.
After earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from East Carolina University, Terri returned to Pennsylvania and earned her master’s degree as a clinical nurse specialist in adult health from Bloomsburg University. Finally, Terri earned her Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia at age 52. Following her two decades at the bedside, Terri advanced through a series of progressive leadership positions – starting as an assistant manager in a critical care unit, then to the manager of several critical care units, then Director, AVP of Critical Care, Education and Research; and ending as a Vice President for Geisinger Health System for many years. After retiring from this full-time role in March, Terri is now a Nursing Practice Consultant for the health system and teaches leadership courses for the graduate programs as adjunct faculty at Bloomsburg University. Terri also serves on the Board of Directors for the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association.
Looking back over her whole nursing career, Terri values both the positive impact she’s had on patients and co-workers, and how important people in her life have done the same for her. Terri feels good about being seen as a “nurses’ nurse” by many colleagues, and for contributing to many practice improvements and bolstering the working conditions of nurses. Terri lead Geisinger to two successful Magnet designations and mentored new leaders through two more. She was a finalist of the PA Nightingale Leadership Award in 2015 and recently learned that a nursing scholarship has been created in her honor for future nurses at Geisinger. “I continued to stay focused on providing or supporting the best quality patient care – ‘keeping my eyes on the prize’ as many have heard me say. That all started at the LGH School of Nursing – now the PA College of Health Sciences.”
Terri has lived in Bloomsburg, PA for the past thirty-two years. She’s married and has two dogs. Terri enjoys outdoor activities, travel and time with friends. She especially looks forward to returning to “in-person” time with friends as COVID-19 vaccinations are increasing and cases diminish.
Seeking People of PA College
Do you know an exceptional current student or alumnus whose experiences and accomplishments would help tell the PA College story? Or someone who has overcome an obstacle or reached a challenging milestone during their PA College experience? Please email your suggested names (and identify them in one of these categories) to Karen Jenkins. Self-nominations are also welcome!