Student loans helped Melvin Bolden Jr. finish his associate degree in nursing, but he’s graduated with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree with the help of his employer’s tuition reimbursement plan.
Bolden earned those three degrees in just a few years, thanks to his determination to get ahead in his new nursing career. “I pushed so hard,” says Bolden, a father of four children ranging in age from 3 to 14. “I basically put my all into it because I wanted my family to have a better future.”
On his decision to become a nurse: Bolden started working in a restaurant when he was 16. He liked school and could have done better, but his family did not emphasize education or talk about college. He was a cook, server and restaurant manager by the time he was 30 and wanted out of the business so he could spend more time with his children. His girlfriend—who is now his wife—suggested he consider nursing, something he never considered. “A guy being a nurse in my neighborhood growing up was just nothing anyone ever talked about,” he says.
Going back to school: Bolden took out student loans to earn his associate degree from Ivy Tech so that he could continue working and pay child support for his two oldest children. Once he could work as a student nurse, he worked whatever hours he could while taking classes. After graduating from Ivy Tech, Bolden immediately enrolled at WGU Indiana to earn a bachelor’s degree. The online program allowed him to move at his own pace and he was able to finish his degree in just six months. Bolden started his master’s degree through WGU and was able to finish in just 18 more months. “I worked, but with WGU I could still work my normal hours because I didn’t have to be in class at a certain time. That was a lot better for me,” Bolden says. The best part: IU Health helped pay his tuition. “It has turned out OK now. Even when I first got out of school, the [student loan] payments felt overwhelming,” Bolden says, “We’ve got things moving in the right direction now.”
His new career: “I love it,” Bolden says. “I love my patients and I love working with my staff, helping them become what they want to be.” Bolden has encouraged at least 10 of the nurses in his department to continue their education, too. The crazy hours of his restaurant days are behind him and Bolden has a regular 9-to-5 schedule and holidays off, even while working on his WGU degrees. And he’s not done yet. “I’m hoping to return to school to earn my doctorate of nursing,” Bolden says.