'The endowment made the difference': Student overcomes challenges in pursuit of master's degree

September 2, 2022 | UHCL Staff

Christine Smith

For Christine Smith, receiving financial support via the Healthcare Administration Endowment made the difference for her to keep moving toward completing her master’s degree at University of Houston-Clear Lake. 

“If I hadn’t received this endowment, I would probably have had to drop out a semester to save money,” said Smith, who is scheduled to receive her dual Master of Healthcare Administration/Master of Business Administration in spring 2023. “It really would have slowed me down. The endowment made the difference.”

Smith, a first-generation college student, said she’d overcome a host of barriers while in high school and had needed loans and scholarships to get through college. 

“I came from a single-parent household and went through long periods of homelessness,” she said. “We stayed in motels and with friends, and bounced around a lot. We were unstable for about four or five years. Sometimes we’d have an apartment, but then my mom wouldn’t be able to afford it anymore. And that’s how it was until I graduated from high school. It was very hard to live that way.”

She said that the one constant in her life was her focus on school and learning. “I knew that in order for things to get better for me, I had to become the best student I could,” she said. “That’s how I kept going forward despite hard times. I always reminded myself, things have to get better, and it will always come back to balance. If you’re far down, you can always rise, and that helped me along the way.” 

She reached for accolades in academics and as she received them, she became more motivated. “My schooling was an element of my life that I could control and I could succeed,” she said. 

After graduating from Alief Hastings High School, Smith enrolled at University of Houston and received her bachelor’s degree in public health. “I had a lot of loans and scholarships,” she said. “I was chosen to become a research assistant at MD Anderson. It was hard, but there’s always adversity,” she said. 

The tough times continued, but Smith said she kept moving forward. “I knew that if I dwelled on those kinds of things for too long, I couldn’t get too far. I would have thought I’ll always be unstable and homeless. But in those moments, when you think things will never get better, that’s when you have to be your own biggest supporter. I changed my mindset and pushed forward.”

Her professors at UH-Clear Lake have shown her by example the importance of remaining focused on the community. “There has never been a time when I thought I couldn’t find the resources I needed,” she said. “I love that I can work and go to school, and that everything I’m learning in my classes is being reinforced in my actual workplace.”

Upon graduating from UHCL next year, she hopes to advance at Legacy Community Health, where she’s currently employed as an operations manager over school-based health clinics. “With my master’s, I’ll be qualified to be promoted to site director. That’s what I hope to do,” she said. 

She has lots of advice for people like her, who did not feel they could go to college because of challenging life circumstances. 

“If no one in your family went to college, and you feel you don’t have a path, just know there is always a way around every obstacle,” she said. “People don’t realize there are loans and scholarships. Keep focused on what you want and don’t become discouraged. I had moments where I thought my life would always be unstable, but pursue your dreams. Put everything you have into it and nurture that seed until it grows.”

For more information about scholarships through the College of Business, go online.