Cantrell, a 2011 graduate of Conway High School in Conway, Mo., had planned to go to college to become a veterinarian, but a family friend who already worked in that occupation encouraged her to consider nursing school, instead, "for job security."
That's when her mother, a counselor at Buffalo High School, suggested that Anna should attend Missouri State-West Plains and enroll in its Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) program. "(Recruitment Specialist) Rachel Peterson had talked to my mom about Missouri State-West Plains and what it had to offer and she liked what she had heard about the campus and thought we should check it out," Anna recalled.
Anna and her parents signed up to attend one of Missouri State-West Plains' Red Carpet Day programs for prospective high school students in February 2010 during her junior year in high school. It wasn't too long into the program that Anna says she was sold on the campus. What made the difference?
"The Student Ambassadors, specifically Lacey Hall," Anna said. "She sat down with my family and talked about the different options available to me here and the path I needed to take. I really thought it was great that she took the time to sit down and speak with us and it made me want to be one, too, so I could give back to the University."
Hall, who now works at CoxHealth in Springfield, knew exactly what Anna could expect as a nursing student at the campus since she would be completing her own ASN degree in May that same year and that made it easy for Anna to begin planning her course of study early.
"I decided to take some of my prerequisites and general education classes my first semester so I could go ahead and get my Associate of Arts (AA) in General Studies degree, as well as my ASN, and continue toward my bachelor’s," Anna explained.
She also decided to enroll in Missouri State-West Plains' William and Virginia Darr Honors Program, again at the suggestion of her mother. "My mom told me about the program after she talked with (Director) Dennis Lancaster. She really thought highly of him and wanted me to do it and I'm glad she did," Anna said.
She said participating in the program has helped her develop her critical thinking skills, which will benefit her as a nurse. "Sometimes I'm such a black-and-white thinker. Dennis makes you think deeper, and as a result, I think more critically now and use the study skills I've developed through the program in my other classes," Anna explained.
A sophomore, Anna said she expects to graduate from Missouri State-West Plains with her ASN and her AA-General Studies with a Specialization in Honors in May 2014. Eventually, she said she would like to work in a clinical setting providing cosmetic procedures to patients.
"I like more of the cosmetic side of nursing and I like to make people feel better about themselves," she explained. "I'm a people person. I like to talk to people, get to know them and this path gives me that opportunity."
Although the idea may not have been her own in the beginning, Anna says she doesn't regret following her mom’s advice to come to Missouri State-West Plains.
"I love this University more than I can say in words. This summer, I missed the campus and I looked forward to coming back. Missouri State-West Plains has amazing faculty and staff, and because of A+, I'm going to be able to graduate debt free. I couldn't be happier with my choice."