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Nurse of the Week Elizabeth Anh-Trinh Stulac, RN/BSN is an established nurse leader working toward a Ph.D., but she remembers where she came from. So, earlier this month she went back home to Elk River, Minnesota to share a message with graduating seniors at tiny Ivan Sand High School, the alternative learning center she graduated from herself in 2008.

“It is not a secret that when you go to an ALC school, sometimes people view you as being a bad kid, an outcast, or not smart enough to make it in a traditional high school. I am here to tell you: That is false.”

Stulac, who later graduated from college Summa Cum laude and in the top 15 percent of her class, is studying for a doctorate in transcultural nursing while working as a charge nurse in the Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 intensive care unit. Her older sister, now a nurse practitioner, was a high school dropout who eventually earned her GED. Thus, Elizabeth Anh-Trinh Stulac knows just how grave an error it can be to make assumptions about someone’s capabilities.

When the latest Ivan Sand grads gathered on June 7 for their graduation ceremony, she urged them to believe in themselves and get in touch with their own leadership skills.

First, the alumna told them, don’t buy into stereotypes of Alternative Learning Center students! “Here I was at the Mayo Clinic, the No. 1 ranked hospital in the world, and they were telling me the strengths that I brought to their organization.” The RN, who is also Mayo’s Rapid Response Team Nurse and chairs two committees (in her spare time), flatly informed the 2022 class: “It is not a secret that when you go to an ALC school, sometimes people view you as being a bad kid, an outcast, or not smart enough to make it in a traditional high school. I am here to tell you: That is false.”

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The 2008 Ivan Sand grad can speak from experience: “Through the many leaders that I have worked with throughout the years, I have come to realize that one of the greatest predictors of success is your perception of yourself. I am here to tell you all today, as you graduate from Ivan Sand Community School that you are not an outcast, you are not a bad kid, and you are not the many things society has made you believe about yourself. But in fact, you are a class of potential leaders.”

After stressing the importance of assessing yourself on your own terms and not those imposed on you by others, the RN told the class of future leaders to write down their short-term and long-term goals,” and determine what they need to do to achieve them. Then, with a hat tip toward the Mayo onboarding process, Stulac added, “I would also recommend identifying your own personality type, and the strengths that each of you carries individually.”

And never assume defeat. Her sister, Stulac says, “is one of the smartest people I know.” ALC students learn early that “Life is messy.” After all, “Not all of you come from traditional families. Many of you are working to help support your families. Opportunities are not given equally to each person. But the feeling that you get when you achieve your goals, having overcome those barriers, is worth the hard work and worth the bad days — because you will have many bad days. Success does not come free; you must work hard for it.”

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With her NP sister’s example in mind, as she concluded Stulac reminded them, “Your success is not only your own but the people who look up to you. I know that some of the greatest leaders are here among us tonight, and I am so excited for you and the impact that you will make on the world that we live in, and what you will achieve!”

A good message for all graduates to live by. Fort the full story on the graduation ceremony, see here.

Koren Thomas
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