Petrona Laporte: I Kept Showing Up
When Petrona Laporte’s daughter was just entering her freshman year of high school and her son was preparing to graduate, her daughter asked her a simple question: Mom, what college did you graduate from?
As a single mom raising two children and working full-time, Laporte, who had attended college but stopped out to raise her family, could hear herself making excuses to her daughter. Within the same week that her daughter raised the question, a friend also asked when she was going back to college. Finding herself spouting excuses again, she promised that she would at least look into it.
The very next day, a coworker at Lancaster General Hospital told her about Immaculata’s Health Care Management program and how great it was.
Within two weeks of making her first contact with Immaculata, she was registered for classes, had her class schedule in-hand and purchased her books. When her children bought her a backpack, it hit home that she was now a college student – and it was scary!
“One of the first classes I had was Organization Concepts with Dr. Kim Allen who gave me the best advice. She told me, ‘just keep showing up,’’’ says Laporte. As difficult as it was, she kept showing up and crossing off her completed courses, one by one. Her last class, Dr. Peter Rondinaro’s High Performance and Perfectionism, was the piece that made everything click.
“That class literally changed my life,” she states bluntly.
Laporte explained that Rondinaro’s class helped her both professionally and personally by giving her insight into why she strove so hard in class. With parents who are Saint Lucian, Laporte grew up in both Brooklyn, New York and Saint Croix. At 15 years old, she found herself homeless. She acknowledges that school was always her safe place. “I would keep my head down and get it done and do the best that I could. That was all I could control because everything else was so out of control,” she says. Through this class, Rondinaro provided Laporte with insight into why she was always so hard on herself. In the process, it enabled her to be kinder to herself and others.
According to Laporte, there was one simple sentence that Rondinaro stated that made a huge impact: People do the best they can with what they know at the time and forgive them when they do not meet your standards.
“I had been harboring some ill-will for decades and it literally melted away!” she admits.
The class also helped her professionally because it made her realize that people often operate from what they know and that their actions are not vindictive. Laporte provides the example of her position in the Diversity and Inclusion Department at Lancaster General Hospital where she served as an advocate for equal access for all patients. Laporte was the first and only person to work as an American Sign Language interpreter in that department at the hospital. Once she went on medical leave, her position was not replaced. However, she understands that the hospital needs to make decisions that work best for them. While working in the Diversity and Inclusion Department, she made strides to ensure that patients were provided crucial medical information in their first-language—no matter what that language is.
Growing up with an older brother who was born deaf, Laporte learned sign language and became a sign language interpreter. Recognizing the multiculturalism of the world today, she is determined to make sure people have equal access to the same experiences and opportunities as others have. To this end, Laporte volunteers her time in her community of Lancaster, PA, as treasurer of Bright Side Opportunities Center, an organization that offers a wide range of services and resources to provide opportunities for all—especially the youth—within Southwest Lancaster City. In addition, she serves on the board for Soroptimist, an international volunteer organization working to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world. Recently they organized a shoe drive and sent care packages to women in remote countries.
With prior work experience, and earning dual degrees in Health Care Management and Organizational Behavior, Laporte is devoted to continuing her work with communities and organizations to provide equal access to resources. “I would love to run an organization that is a one-stop resource center,” she says.
Now that she has finished her degree, she reflects on others who may be debating about going back to school. Although it is scary and not easy, she has some advice for them: start today.
“If you don’t start today, four years from now you’re going to look back and say ‘darn it, I would have been done.’”
Once you buy the backpack, it’s official!