In 2000, Merissa Laht wrote a career plan featuring her long-term goal of becoming a nurse practitioner for her first semester nursing class. After 18 years she was able to accomplish her goal and more, but with a few hiccups along the way.
While in her second semester, Merissa worked 16 hours each week as a nurse’s aid for a local retirement home, which helped pay for her rent, commute to school and bills. Although Merissa worked rigorously to make ends meet and gained much-needed field experience, she was unable to pay for tuition fees and ineligible for OSAP. With limited options, Merissa contemplated dropping out of the program until she spoke with Seneca’s financial assistance advisors.
“I applied for a bursary through the financial aid office,” she said. “I was just making enough working to pay for rent and expenses and my parents were not able to assist me financially through my postsecondary education.”
Following her application, Merissa was soon granted $1,200. “Without this [bursary], I wouldn’t have been able to graduate from the program.”
Merissa graduated from the Nursing program in 2003 and landed a career in nursing, however, her years as a student weren’t over. Alongside working full time, Merissa went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master’s Degree in Nursing, a certification in gerontology from the Canadian Nurses Association certification in gerontology, and a critical care certificate through Seneca, which led to a position in an ICU wing.
Reflecting on her time at Seneca, Merissa says the faculty supported her throughout the program. “I remember the staff always being available whenever I needed them and taking the time to make sure I understood everything, especially in our lab classes where we would practise inserted catheters and sterile procedures,” she says.
Since graduating, Merissa has become a fully licensed nurse practitioner and is currently working at Lake Health Oshawa’s ER with a focus on senior care. She was also nominated for an honourable mention in the Hospital News for nursing week in 2016.
Due to her experience as a student, Merissa now supports the next generation of students who struggle to pay for expenses, while maintaining a good grade standing. By donating to the Pay-It-Forward Campaign, she’s proved the importance of ongoing community support and resources available at Seneca.
“I fully support the initiatives Seneca continues today and I am an example of how those funds allow students to meet their goals,” she says.