Albright Faculty graduate is following a crooked path to her dream of changing into a health care provider.

Sitting on one of many well-known pink Adirondack chairs that speckle the Albright Faculty campus not too long ago, Erika Hollinger’s life was proper she all the time anticipated it to finish up.

Type of.

She was a just some days away from being handed a diploma as a university graduate. And medical college — a dream of hers since she was a toddler — was proper on the horizon.

Turning into a health care provider was all the time the plan, and Hollinger was one step nearer to creating it a actuality.

Different components of Hollinger’s life, nonetheless, weren’t a part of the plan.

After beginning her school profession at 17, she’s incomes her bachelor’s at 34. She’s the mom of 4.

And after being raised Catholic, she is now a religious, training Mennonite — even sporting a head masking.

Hollinger’s path hasn’t been completely straight. Nevertheless it bought her to the place she wanted to go, and hath her on the precipice of a vibrant future.

A diverted journey

Hollinger bought a fast soar on her school training.

After ending highschool in Hackettstown, NJ, early, she began taking lessons at a neighborhood school at age 17. Her final aim was to turn into a health care provider.

However throughout her first semester, a chemistry class almost derailed that dream. She discovered herself misplaced, and her confidence waned.

And when she turned 18, Hollinger moved out on her personal. That meant she needed to work full time at her job at Applebee’s to assist herself.

“I could not do it,” she stated. “It was only a lot and I assumed that perhaps I wasn’t good sufficient.”

Hollinger determined to place college on maintain.

“I wished to complete in some unspecified time in the future, however I could not do it proper then,” she stated.

Hollinger ended up getting a job as a gross sales consultant with Princess Cruises, the place she would work for the following 4 years. Hollinger stated she loved the work, however had a nagging feeling that one thing was lacking in her life.

“Holidays are nice, however I wished to be doing one thing with my life that was serving to folks,” she stated. “It simply wasn’t sufficient for me. I simply felt unfulfilled, typically.”

A life-changing highway journey

Hollinger has all the time loved driving.

It is a method for her to chill out, a method for her to clear her thoughts. So when attempting to determine what to do about her rising malaise, what route she wished her life to go, she hopped in her automotive.

She jumped on I-78 in New Jersey and headed towards Pennsylvania, intent on taking a day journey to Amish nation. She ended up tooling across the again rounds of jap Lancaster County.

She handed a roadside produce stand.

“One thing made me cease in the midst of the highway and switch round,” she stated.

Though she did not actually know why, Hollinger had an urge to speak to the Amish and Mennonite folks gathered on the stand. She purchased a pumpkin and struck up a dialog with the girl who offered it to her.

The lady who was Mennonite was greater than keen to speak.

The 2 talked for hours. The lady invited her to take a look at her household’s barn and inside her house, exhibiting Hollinger the wooden range for cooking.

The lady, named Verna, advised Hollinger that she had a daughter about her age and invited her to return for an additional go to. Hollinger did simply that, simply exhibiting up as a result of she could not name forward since Verna’s household did not have a telephone.

Hollinger and Verna developed a detailed relationship, having deep conversations in regards to the which means of life.

“We began speaking in regards to the issues I wished in my life: objective, neighborhood, household and, undoubtedly, God,” she stated. “I believe God was what was lacking in my life.”

A non secular journey had been triggered inside Hollinger.

Top Albright College graduate Erika Hollinger.  Photo courtesy of John Pankratz
Erika Hollinger is off to medical college after graduating from Albright Faculty. (COURTESY OF JOHN PANKRATZ)

Hollinger started attending a Mennonite church in New Jersey, however it was about three hours from her house. She got here throughout a information article a few Mennonite congregation that was beginning up within the Bronx and determined to test it out as a result of it was a lot nearer.

The church member quoted within the article would wind up finally changing into her husband.

She met Tony Hollinger in 2011, they usually have been wed in 2013. About 9 months later the couple had their first baby, Ezra.

Hollinger settled into a conventional stay-at-home mother life.

A scare spurs motion

The Hollingers had a second son, Elijah, a 12 months after Ezra was born.

They moved to Myerstown, then to Studying. And in 2017 they’d a 3rd son, Micah.

Hollinger was sitting in a rocking chair, holding a new child Micah, when she bought a telephone name that modified her trajectory. It was from her physician, and he advised her {that a} screening confirmed Micah might have cystic fibrosis.

“It is like my world completely shattered,” Hollinger stated.

A second take a look at was scheduled to verify the analysis, however due to Micah’s age it could not be performed for a few month. Hollinger did not sit round and waste that point.

She dove head first into analysis, studying the whole lot she may about cystic fibrosis.

“I used to be all the time eager about how the human physique works, however this was the primary time, sitting there holding Micah, it meant life or demise,” she stated. “It out of the blue grew to become a lot extra. It was simply such a profound expertise, I could not come out of that the identical individual.”

Hollinger determined that if Micah did have cystic fibrosis she would turn into “mommy physician,” focusing all her power on caring for him. If not, she was going to dedicate her life to serving to others.

The take a look at got here again damaging.

“It may have been us. I needed to do one thing with that,” she stated. “I made a decision proper then I am going again to high school. I will be a health care provider. It wasn’t even actually a alternative, perhaps it was a calling.”

Hollinger had already discovered time to complete her affiliate’s diploma on-line at a neighborhood school. And since she and her household had moved to Studying, she determined to take a look at Albright.

The school provided the whole lot she wanted, together with a relationship with Hershey Medical Middle that would supply a transparent pathway to medical college.

Her return to school wasn’t notably simple. She had some catching as much as do, like needing to return and relearn algebra whereas in the midst of taking natural chemistry.

“It was an adjustment, however I used to be dedicated,” she stated. “I wanted to do that and I labored my tail off.”

She discovered to multitask, studying her textbook on her cellphone whereas rocking a child or listening to lectures whereas driving in her automotive.

Oh, after which there’s attempting to steadiness school programs with having her fourth baby, Seraphina. Not a simple activity.

Hollinger stated she could not have made it by means of her time at Albright with out an incredible assist system. She stated her husband, mother, professors and different employees on the school all performed an enormous position in her success.

So did God, she stated.

Hollinger stated she frolicked caring for her ailing grandmother within the months main as much as taking her MCAT (Medical Faculty Admissions Check) exams, and that she handed away just some weeks earlier than the examination. It left Hollinger grieving and scrambling to organize.

She requested her mother if she may assist watch her youngsters so she may deal with learning, however her mother had a prolonged RV tripped deliberate.

As her mother headed out on that journey, the truck that was pulling the RV broke down — proper in entrance of the airport. Her mother left her husband to take care of the truck and hopped on a airplane to assist her daughter.

The day after the MCAT examination the auto mechanic known as to say the truck was mounted and able to go.

“I’ve to present loads of credit score to God,” Hollinger stated.

‘Bridge the 2 worlds’

Hollinger plans to begin medical college in Hershey in July.

She stated she thinks she desires to enter household drugs, however is aware of which may change in some unspecified time in the future down the highway.

After getting her medical diploma, Hollinger plans to make use of her expertise to assist the plain communities. She stated these communities typically lack entry to medical care, largely due to a disruption of contemporary drugs.

“Docs typically aren’t the primary individual they’re going to flip to after they have a difficulty,” Hollinger stated.

Hollinger stated she desires to make use of the truth that she has a foot in two worlds — the plain neighborhood and the medical area — to enhance that.

“That belief is not there,” she stated. “I wish to be a part of altering that. I wish to assist bridge the 2 worlds.”

Albright Faculty graduation ceremony

When: Might 15 at 10 am

The place: Santander Enviornment.

Variety of levels: 468

Audio system: Albright President Jacquelyn S. Fetrow; Roger L. Gregory, chief decide of the US Court docket of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit; and Kenneth Rolon, graduating senior.

Notable: An honorary physician of legislation diploma shall be introduced to Gregory.

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