Beat the Odds: RCTC Student Leaves Amish Community to Pursue Dream

February 16, 2018 09:47 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- The Rochester Community and Technical College Foundation is helping students dealing with obstacles in their life go to college through the Beat the Odds scholarship.

A scholarship was recently awarded to Susan Miller who left the only life she ever knew to pursue her dreams.


She was born and raised in an Amish community, primarily speaking German.  However, she says she knew she was meant for something larger in life.

"Once I was done with school, I was 13 and then I helped my parents. I did a couple jobs like babysitting and worked at a bakery and then my mom also makes quilts to sell. So I did a lot of clothing, but that was always like, it's just going to be like that, like the rest of my life and I always wanted more,” Susan said.

Susan never felt like she fit in, so she made a life-changing decision.

"I was 17 when I finally decided that I really do want more. I didn't necessarily tell my parents, like I mentioned it to my mom a couple times, but that would be about it because if you would tell them then they would --  like you couldn't really leave,” Susan said.

She left the Amish community and her family, moving from Nebraska to Rochester with no money, not even a social security number.

"You know you're going to have to have that before you can get a job. In the meantime, I couldn't make any money really besides I did help an older couple a couple hours a day sometimes. Then I made some money to kind of do something to get started,” Susan said.

Three years ago, her life changed again after leaving work in Spring Valley.

"I got off of work at 11, and I didn't realize how bad the weather was, but I guess it was super bad. I hit black ice and I crashed. I rolled my car,” she said.

Susan suffered fractured ribs and vertebrae, a punctured lung, and a bad concussion.  During her time in the hospital, something inside her changed.

"That's when I actually made the step where I put myself into Hawthorne and this is like I need to start. I always wanted it, but I only thought it's never the right time. But after that happened I'm like I need to do more like I need to actually start it, not just think about it,” Susan said.

Angela Meyer nominated Susan for the Beat the Odds scholarship.  She taught Susan at Hawthorne Education Center where she received her GED and took pre-coursework preparing for RCTC.


"You know that little girl grew up in a buggy,” Angela said. She was only supposed to have an 8th-grade education. She wasn't supposed to be offered things like this and she made her own way in the world.”

Susan started classes at RCTC in in May 2017 while working as a full-time Certified Nursing Assistant at Madonna Towers in Rochester.

"I've done it for a while, but I want more because I think more would challenge me more,” Susan said.

"To know that she has made it this far and to see where she's going; I was excited I had goosebumps, but I kind of hold the over excitement back until she graduates because then I'm going to be…I'll just be a sobbing, blubbering,” Angela said.

With a goal of becoming a registered nurse, Susan’s future is firmly in her own hands.

"It has made me like a stronger person, not to give up even when it gets hard. It's worth it to go through it, to do it more. I think that's another reason that I don't give up in school as much because I know it's hard, but I know I can do it,” Susan said.


Marissa Collins

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