Annessa Turner was twenty-six years old and had been trying on different occupations ever since her first job at age fourteen. “All I knew was that I wanted to help people in need, because that’s what I had a passion for,” she says.
That passion led her to a position in a retirement home where she started out in housekeeping and was quickly made part of the care-giving staff because of her sensitive interpersonal skills and loving interactions with residents.
“They called me ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ because I took a personal interest in their lives and their families,” says Annessa.
That led to a position with a company that provides in-home care for those who need assistance with the ongoing needs of their daily lives. This job confirmed the idea that a profession in patient care was where Annessa was meant to be.
Another important event solidified that decision when Annessa’s father succumbed to brain cancer after a 10-month struggle.
“He so badly wanted me to have a good education and have a happy life,” says Annessa. “He is my inspiration for everything I do. I don’t want everything he has taught and shown me to be in vain.”
Enrolling in the Respiratory Therapy program on the Ontario campus not only set her on the career path she had always wanted, it provided a soft place to land for the support she very much needed after her greatest loss.
“I never expected to have teachers who are so passionate about their careers and their students,” says Annessa. “They make themselves available to anyone at any time, and that environment is irreplaceable. I sought their advice for things much outside RT. They helped guide me through school, as well as my life path.”
Annessa admits that her greatest struggle has been herself. “My own insecurities, lack of self-confidence and not being able to assert myself has always held me back,” she says.
She credits so many at SJVC for helping her to see a truer vision of herself. “It was a blessing that Lea Endress was my first instructor,” she says. “He was so positive and inspirational and told me ‘You can do anything,’ and sounded so much like my father.”
There were others, like her teacher Russell McCord. “He is the type of instructor that students never forget,” says Annessa. “His positivity is contagious. Simply being around him makes you want to be a better person.”
She found her role model in instructor Hank Lockridge. “His infinite knowledge and wisdom has inspired us all to do our best so that when go out into our field we give the highest level of care to our patients,” she says.
Clinical rotations were a revelation to Annessa. “Loma Linda Hospital is my dream right now,” she says. “I hope that I made an impression there to be remembered. It just felt like home, like that was where I should be. I believe in their Mission Statement to make man whole; they’re treating the whole person, not just a patient.”
There was a lot of self-discovery along the way. “Who I am now versus who I was when I started school is a very different person,” she says. It is important for her to do her very best so that she can provide others with the highest level of professionalism. Integrity is one of the finer points her father instilled in her. “He said that integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking.”
Annessa’s father may have been her North Star, but she is finding a light all her own. She is fanning the fire within herself to go out into the world and pass those gifts she learned from her father and the knowledge and skill gleaned from her education to those in her care.
When she really feels the need to pull him close, to feel the safety net he always provided, she wears the necklace her father wore every day of his many years in the Fire Department, the last eleven as Deputy Chief-Fire Marshall for Chino Valley.
“I wear his necklace when I need the reassurance that he’s still there,” says Annessa. It will look really nice with her graduation cap and gown this October.