Central Texas mom finally finishes dream degree

Brittney Hinkley and her son, Oliver. (Courtesy photo)
Brittney Hinkley and her son, Oliver. (Courtesy photo)(KWTX)
Published: May. 25, 2020 at 4:47 PM CDT
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A Central Texas mom of three who started college 12 years ago finally finished her dream degree over the weekend after a lot of hard work and challenges which included the birth of her son with a condition which requires round-the-clock care.

Brittney Hinkley, 30, of Hewitt, took part in a pinning ceremony earning a certificate in Surgical Technology from Temple College over the weekend while her son, Oliver, 6, who was born with spina bifida, a condition in which the spinal cord fails to develop properly, cheered her on.

In its most severe form, it can result in partial or complete paralysis.

"He told me he was proud of me and that he wants to be a doctor one day," Hinkley said.

"Oliver accounts for a lot of my gaps," she said.

"But I am proud I kept pushing and I am actually really proud my kids go to see their mom finish."

Hinkley started college in pursuit of a degree in education in 2008 at El Paso Community College.

By the end of 2010, she'd decided to take a break.

When she went back in 2011, she was working as a patient specialist and decided to change her focus to become a surgical technologist.

For the next couple of years she would take classes to get the prerequisites under her belt she needed in order to apply for the program.

"Because I was working part time to be able to attend school part time, it took me a while," she said.

But then she learned she was pregnant with her first child, Oliver and at her 20-week week ultrasound life for her family changed forever.

Oliver was diagnosed with spina bifida and Hinkley was sent home for mandatory bed rest.

"This took a huge toll on me, but my husband and family were my biggest supporters, plus I had a precious baby boy on the way."

Because of the complex diagnosis, which led to multiple surgeries and left Oliver in a wheelchair, Hinkley took the next two years off from work and stopped attending school in person in order to care for him at home.

But she never totally stopped learning.

"During this time, I was able to finish medical terminology, art appreciation and A&P 2 all online," she said.

In July 2016, she had her second son, Theodore.

While home with Theodore as a baby, Hinkley continued online classes.

She had her eyes set on Temple College’s surgical technology program, but first had to save up the money to get there.

"Unfortunately a full-time program required me to pay all on my own not qualifying for financial aid.

She started working at Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center in 2018 saving up money for the program and finally applied in January 2019.

She was overjoyed when she was accepted especially considering the limited spots offered.

School was moving along smoothly for the mom until the school closed in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That left her just a few weeks shy of her finishing.

Hinkley was a few surgeries and tests short and she was on a hard timeline.

Hinkley had already been offered a job at a hospital in Maine and says without some determined professors she may not have been able to accept the job.

"It was difficult but our instructors Alicia Buck, Candice Bahnsen and Adriana Ibarra always kept our faith strong and worked so hard to get us approval to graduate. I definitely want to thank them."

On Saturday, Hinkley’s decade-plus long dream came true and just in the nick of time as she turned out for her pinning ceremony for completing the program as part of Phi Thera Kappa for her high GPA.

"It was never what I thought or expected being six feet apart and taking place in the school parking lot but it happened," she said.

Hinkley’s stepson, two biological sons, and husband who worked full-time while supporting her dreams were all there to see it happen.

She says it's a moment she'll never forget and she hopes her sons never will either.

"I can only hope it inspired them to never stop chasing their dreams, no matter how big or small."

Hinkley won’t be here for the school’s graduation ceremony in August because she and her family will be moving to Portland, Maine where she's accepted a job at Maine Medical Center, which starts in July.

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