Student success can be measured in multiple ways. A high school valedictorian is one way. A college graduate who lands their first full-time job is another. One measure could be the tenacity of a student who overcomes impossible odds to finish school, or the graduate who becomes an inspiration and role model for other students.
At the age of 15, Linda Badillo was forced to live on her own due to a bad family situation. As a high school freshman, she earned money working as a waitress while still attending Clinton High School. Eventually ,she dropped out of school to wait tables full time. She returned to school her senior year and by attending alternative school made up the missed work to graduate on time with her class.
“I knew I didn’t want to wait tables forever,” Badillo said, “and education was my way out.”
The following year, Badillo went to Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford with plans to become a teacher. She chose SWOSU because it was close to her hometown and the tuition was affordable.
“I talked to other universities, but they were not interested in me due to my family and financial situation,” Badillo explained. “SWOSU understood that I was on my own and helped me to do what I needed to get in college. They helped me find ways to pay for college, such as through scholarships and the workforce investment act and made sure I kept up with the process.”
In her sophomore year, Badillo had a premature baby that required around-the-clock medical care and was again forced to drop out of school. Nursing was not a career choice Badillo had considered, but after working with health care providers to care for her child, she realized that nursing could be a life line and a career path.
She graduated with a practical nursing degree from Western Technology Center in 2003 and her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Oklahoma City University. In 2018, she graduated from SWOSU with a master’s in nursing education.
“Often, I work with students who are told they are not “college material,” or they can’t afford college,” Badillo said. “They think this their last stop, but I push them a little further. I share my story and show them that it is possible. It lights a fire so that many times they dream bigger and change their career path.”