NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – When Morgan Schrock walks across the platform to receive her diploma from Bethel College, she will be nearing the end of a journey that had more roadblocks than she might have imagined.
Schrock, of Hesston, will earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, with honors, and already has a job lined up in the medical-surgical unit at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital in Iowa City.
But there was a time when she wondered if she’d ever see this day.
Schrock grew up in a Mennonite family, attending First Mennonite Church of Christian in Moundridge with her family for her first few years of life, and then Whitestone Mennonite Church after they moved to Hesston.
Her church’s and her parents’ teaching and example were a big part of why “I always wanted to help people,” she says.
However, when she thought about a future career, it wasn’t necessarily nursing – until, in her junior year at Hesston High School, Schrock’s mother, Rhonda, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“The nurses who took care of her [at Newton Medical Center] were great,” Morgan Schrock says, “and that got me interested in nursing.”
After graduating from high school in 2012, Schrock went to Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina. For the first two years, she says, “everything went great.” She completed her prerequisites and was accepted into the nursing program as a junior.
Then, in her second semester, in spring 2015, “we began to notice things were different than in the first semester. We started to hear rumors that our program would lose its accreditation – but when we asked, our instructors would tell us, ‘We are in the middle of switching our accreditation.’
“[In late February 2015,] we were pulled into a meeting and told that, because of the switch, [the program] would be losing its accreditation as of the first of March.
“I felt hopeless. I didn’t know what to do. I called my mom and told her I’d have to find somewhere else to go to school, or else I’d have to work at Salina Regional Medical Center for the rest of my life, because they were the only ones who would now accept [our degree].”
Her mother suggested she look at several other area nursing programs. She did, but for a variety of reasons, they would have required her to go back almost to the beginning.
What Rhonda Schrock remembers is getting off the phone with her daughter, feeling helpless, and “saying a prayer” for things to somehow work out. She got in her car to run an errand – and heard a radio ad for the Bethel College nursing program.
“I knew it was God letting me know there were answers,” she says.
“My mom called me back and said, ‘What about Bethel?’,” Morgan Schrock recalls. “So I started looking at Bethel.”
Heather Moore, Bethel’s nursing admissions administrator, asked Schrock to send the syllabi for her current coursework at Kansas Wesleyan, “and they would figure everything out. They did – when and how I could take the classes I needed, what credits I already had that would transfer. It made the transfer painless.
“I was so relieved that I had a place to fall back on, that was willing to take me and where they cared about me as a [person], not just a number. I felt like I was actually on track again instead of set back three steps from where I wanted to be.”
Schrock was accepted into Bethel’s nursing program at the end of March, to start the following fall. Then on April 8, 2015, tragedy struck.
Schrock’s father, John Schrock, was driving a semi-trailer and had an accident near McPherson in which the truck rolled over and caught fire. John Schrock was killed, leaving his wife and two daughters (Morgan and her sister Kaitlyn).
“My teachers [at KWU] were willing to give me incompletes, because I didn’t think I would come back,” Schrock says, “but then I did. I finished it out, because I knew that’s what he would have wanted me to do. His famous line was ‘Suck it up, Buttercup’ – I know that’s what he would have said.”
Schrock – and, as it turned out, about 15 of her KWU classmates – took a summer course at Bethel that the department organized especially for them, so they could start with the senior nursing class in the fall.
However, Schrock decided to take the fall 2015 semester off. “After the summer class, and all that had happened, I realized I needed a break,” she says.
Though most of her nursing classmates from KWU graduated last spring, three others also elected to take a semester off and will graduate with her in the Class of 2017 – Heather Dovenbarger, Kersey, Colorado, Blake Samskey, Salina, and Carrie Weigand, Madera, California.
Although Schrock’s father won’t be in the Thresher Stadium stands to watch her graduate May 21, it seems he is still looking out for her.
When she began applying for nursing jobs, she looked at openings in the south-central Kansas area, but didn’t get any calls back.
Her extended family comes from the east-central Iowa area, near Iowa City. “Once, after I had decided I wanted to be a nurse, my family was up there visiting, and we drove by the university hospital,” Schrock says. “My dad said, ‘When you’re looking for a job, don’t forget this hospital. It’s a great hospital.’
“When I applied there, I got two job offers.”