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Graduating mother instills importance of education in daughters

Graduating mother instills importance of education in daughters

AUSTINTOWN — Cindy Lee Campbell graduated Saturday from Youngstown State University’s registered nurse-to-bachelor of science in nursing program, and also celebrated 35 years since the kidney transplant that set her on her path.

The now 60-year-old Campbell is the mother of three daughters, Tricia Meredith, Mallory Meredith, and Bailey Campbell, and one stepdaughter, Starr Campbell. She is the clinical manager of the dialysis unit at Fresenius Kidney Care in Austintown, where she worked her way up the ranks over the years. However, Campbell’s journey didn’t start smoothly.

When she was just 24, her life was changed by a diagnosis of renal failure. Pregnant and with one young daughter at home, Campbell began traveling four days a week to University Hospitals in Cleveland for dialysis, where she said she had “wonderful nurses.”

“I was not a nurse back then, and I was scared to death,” she said.

Because she was sick, Campbell had to have her baby early, but the child only lived for three weeks. Campbell herself recovered after her younger sister, Shelly, gave her a kidney.

Campbell’s experiences led her to later pursue an RN diploma through St. Elizabeth School of Nursing.

“I just think knowledge is power and I wanted to know everything I could know about the renal area and dialysis area,” Campbell said.

She got to work on her RN while waitressing at Perkins Restaurant and raising two young daughters.

“I was really little,” said Campbell’s oldest daughter, Tricia Meredith. “We were living over in Austintown across from Giant Eagle in this little house. I remember she was basically gone all day,” said Tricia, who said she remembers her mother coming home and switching clothes for work and school.

“My husband at the time was extremely supportive,” Campbell said. “(The program) was with the nuns at St. Elizabeth’s. It was a really heavy focus on clinicals. I do very well with hands-on learning, so I loved it.”

Campbell graduated in 1991, and started work as a nurse while continuing to help raise her family. Through the years, she instilled in her daughters the importance of education.

“She’s always set a good example for us girls about how important education is,” daughter Mallory Meredith said. “Growing up, her example was always ‘work very hard.’ A lesson she taught us was never burn any bridges — by that she just meant always be respectful of people who are helping us.”

“I grew up with a great work ethic, and I think I’ve instilled that in them,” said Campbell, who said her daughters are “something else.”

Tricia, a mother of two, holds a Ph.D. and works at Florida Atlantic University, where she researches sharks. Mallory is a lawyer in Asheville, N.C., and 21-year-old Bailey Campbell is studying anthropology at YSU. Starr is also a mother of two and runs a location of Uptown Pizza.

“Much like our mom, our stories haven’t all been the classic kindergarten through graduate school to career,” said Mallory, who, like her mother, had to take a break from school to deal with life. “We’ve all set a goal and got to it eventually.”

Campbell said her daughters’ successes pushed her to go back to school.

“I’m looking at my younger daughter here, and I figured I better get this done,”she said.

Campbell’s courses at YSU were online, which posed some challenges.

“Oh my gosh, it was way more work than I anticipated,” she said. “I like sitting in a classroom and taking notes.”

Campbell said she missed the face-to-face classroom interactions, but her daughters helped her overcome the “huge learning curve” of technology.

“I had to do videos of head-to-toe assessments and upload them to YouTube, and I was like, ‘I don’t even know how to get to YouTube,'” Campbell joked.

Bailey said she “barely” had to help her mother with technology this last semester.

“She’s pretty cool,” Bailey said of her mom.

Tricia said her mom jumped into the challenge of an online degree without knowing for sure if she could reach the finish line — but she jumped anyway, and ended up successful.

“She was the model student on top of now being a mom to three daughters and a stepdaughter,” Tricia said.

Now, Cindy is considering pursuing a master’s degree. The family got together through Zoom to watch Cindy’s virtual graduation from YSU and to celebrate her achievements.

“My family, especially my mom, came from an extremely modest background: low income in Youngstown,” Tricia said. “She really made something of herself and elevated herself, and changed the course of our whole family’s history.”

avugrincic@tribtoday.com

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