Mia Mentis Stamey was born and raised in South Carolina, and she had her eyes on graduating from The University of Alabama from a young age. Her family traveled to Alabama often, and she spent most of her summers vacationing in Alabama’s Gulf region. “I loved Alabama and knew I wanted to go to UA from the time I was in middle school,” she said.

Mia was a determined young woman. In high school, she researched the classes required to be admitted to UA, and those were the classes she focused on. “When it was time to apply, I had only one college on my list: Alabama.” She was ready to move to Tuscaloosa for the next four years to study marketing when life threw her a curveball. “I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, so I decided to stay home and attend a local community college.”

In January 2010, Mia welcomed her daughter, Karolina. As a young mom, she worked full time to support her family. When her daughter was 3 years old, the course of Mia’s life was altered forever when Karolina was diagnosed with leukemia. “We traveled to Cincinnati for her chemotherapy and radiation, and in June 2013, she received a bone marrow transplant.” Soon after, Karolina was in remission. It was this experience of caring for her daughter and regularly interacting with nurses that changed Mia’s career plans from marketing to nursing. After looking into her options, she found she could earn her Associate Degree in Nursing, become a registered nurse (RN), and then complete her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from UA’s online RN to BSN program.

In December 2018, Mia graduated with her Associate Degree in Nursing and became a registered nurse. In January 2019, she was officially a UA student, enrolled in one final prerequisite for the RN to BSN program, which she began that summer. Before she began the program, though, Karolina relapsed. “We flew on an emergency medical jet from South Carolina back to Cincinnati, and we were there for several months of 2019.” In July, Karolina had her second bone marrow transplant, and Mia was there for it all. While she stayed by her daughter’s bedside, she was also completing papers and other online assignments for her BSN.

“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare to go through what we did – and then to have to do it all again. Karolina’s my motivation for everything I do. She knew my dream was to graduate from UA, and I wanted to show her that regardless of what we go through
in life, we can make our dreams come true. I wanted to empower her — after everything she has been through — that I did it, and so can she.”

Mia reached out to program coordinators Dr. Michelle Cheshire and Katara Wilson during her time in Cincinnati. They were both empathetic and understanding, helping her rearrange her curriculum and shift to part-time study for a couple of semesters.
Dr. Cheshire even helped reduce the burden of communicating the hardship Mia was living by discussing it with Mia’s instructors on her behalf. “She reached out to me as a mother, and she was extremely kind. Thankfully, I completed all my assignments by
their due dates, but Dr. Cheshire helped me work things out so I could keep making progress and continue to excel in the program and still be there for my daughter.”

Through her recovery in the hospital, all 10-year-old Karolina wanted was to be home for Thanksgiving. She was discharged from the hospital and they drove back two days before, and as Mia put it, “We all had something special to be thankful for that year.”
Karolina has expressed interest in following in her mom’s footsteps and dreams of attending UA one day, too.

Even after rearranging her courses and shifting to part-time study, Mia completed her BSN in just four semesters. She graduated in Summer 2020, just after celebrating a full year after Karolina’s second bone marrow transplant. Mia, her husband and Karolina have all been “over the moon” that she’s reached her goals of graduating from UA and becoming a BSN-trained nurse. “It’s an added credential that will give me a pay increase, and it expands my career opportunities for nursing.” Mia wants to continue her work as an ICU nurse and plans to earn her master’s in Nursing but is trying to enjoy and celebrate reaching this goal first.

“I’m taking a little time to relish in it. It’s a huge accomplishment, especially given everything life has thrown at us in the past few years.”

Published: September 8th, 2020