A member of the Pomo Tribe from Sherwood Valley Rancheria who grew up in Ukiah, Hercules Campbell graduated in the Spring of 2009 with his Associates Degree in Nursing. It's been a long road for Hercules—full of challenges—but also full of amazing opportunity.
Both of Hercule's parents suffered from alcoholism; his father died at 52 when he was only nine. He and his four brothers and sister basically just "got by," trying to make the best of things. Hercules worked building fences, chopping wood, and at a local lumber mill for a brief time. He discovered he did not like manual labor and wanted to do more with his life.
Hercules then found a job at Consolidated Tribal Health Project (CTHP) in Redwood Valley when he was 20 years old. Here he met his first mentors, two women who saw potential in him, believed in him, and encouraged him to be all he could be. Nancy Leybourne (who now works as a Physician's Assistant at Pediatrics Group) and Mary Ann Gonzales, DDS, both worked at CTHP and not only helped him on the job, but encouraged him to get his GED. It soon became obvious that Hercules had talent in art and design and he found himself working on signs, flyers and brochures for the organization. Encouraged by all this, he decided to enroll in the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe where he obtained a scholarship and studied painting. From there, he received a scholarship to the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, where he studied art.
Hercules then came back to Mendocino County, landing in Willits where he has been ever since. While he experienced success with his painting, he wanted something more. An opportunity came in the health field again, this time as a Community Health Representative for Sherwood Valley Rancheria (SVR). Starting out as a driver, he worked his way up to becoming a manager with a heavy emphasis in patient advocacy. After a few years, Hercules became a little discouraged as he felt he needed more education to really help people and further his career. He met another mentor here, Nancy Goodman, a Public Health Nurse, who also saw something special in Hercules. After he became frustrated with his position and left SVR Nancy went to visit him at home and encouraged him to enroll at Mendocino College's brand new R.N. program. Hercules decided to take it on.
While the R.N. program can take just two years to complete, Hercules had to go back to the beginning. In August of 2004, he began classes in basic math skills at the Willits Center. It took a year before he was even ready to begin tackling the nursing program prerequisites. It was in Sue Blundell's Anatomy class that Hercules discovered how much he loved science. Thinking back to his years at CTHP—remembering how much the information he was now learning would have helped him in his daily dealings with patients—gave him the incentive to work hard. He also knew that in order to get into the highly competitive R.N. program (at the onset only 18 students every two years were selected for admission) he was going to have to do everything he could to not only pass his classes, but to excel. Though very difficult, within another year he had completed the necessary prereqs to apply for acceptance to the R.N. program.
Hercules was accepted, and in August of 2007, started his first nursing classes. "It's comprehensive ... condensed ... a lot of information!" Hercules remembers. Money is often an issue with getting through school, and that too was an issue for Hercules. He applied for and received the Alliance for Rural Community Health (ARCH) scholarship, an organization that helps Latino and Native American students advance or enhance their career in the health field.
Howard Memorial Hospital also helped Hercules out by offering a $1,000 scholarship—with one condition. He had to agree to work for one year with them upon graduation! Thrilled that he might have a job waiting for him when he graduated made Hercules work even harder.
When asked about the nursing program, Hercules quickly notes: "The instructors are incredible— Fran Laughton, Barbara French, Melissa Hladek, Karen Wilson. There is a lot of support here at Mendocino College for we nursing students," says Hercules. "Melissa Hladek arranged for a group of recruitors to come to the classroom—a sort of mini Career Fair if you will. She did this all out of her own time, and we really appreciated it."
If there is one piece of advice Hercules could give anyone wanting to become a nurse—or for that matter, anyone trying to make something out of their life—it would be this: "Be able to recognize your opportunites." When you know what you want, what your goal is, you can then find out what it takes to get there—and the opportunities will present themselves, as long as you are open to seeing them. "You also must be willing to work hard, develop good study habits, get organized and learn how to prioritize," says Hercules. If you're willing to do all this, nothing can stop you.
Hercules Campbell, Mendocino College Success Story
Date of Interview: May, 2009
Written by Christine Mullis