Beatriz Lockett has called a few places in Chicago home, including the Back of the Yards and Humboldt Park neighborhoods—but she never really felt at home at school. She even tried starting college four times. However, it wasn’t until the fourth and final time that she got the college degree she always wanted—and so much more. 

Beatriz first attended a small college but didn’t finish. She earned enough credits to work as a preschool teacher but was never able to advance in her career. 

So, Beatriz enrolled at Malcolm X College in 2007 to study child development. At that time, she wasn’t ready to go back to school and stopped showing up for class. Years later, life happened. She got sick and then helped take care of her mom who was battling cancer for the second time. 

Those experiences inspired Beatriz to explore the healthcare industry. In the Fall of 2018, she returned to Malcolm X, this time, to receive her Medical Billing Certificate, which would take one semester to complete. 

One of Beatriz’s first classes was Medical Terminology with Instructor Joyce Shannon. She listened to the passionate introduction Shannon gave the class about the programs available to them after they completed the Medical Billing program. Immediately, Beatriz’s plans changed. She decided to take more classes to obtain another certificate. 

“It stirred something within me, and I said, ‘Ok, I’m going to go for the advanced coding,’” she recalled. 

By the end of her Medical Billing Basic Certificate program and two semesters in the Medical Coding Advanced Certificate program, Beatriz had fallen in love with the Health Information Management program at Malcolm X. Further, she noticed a change within herself.  

Back in 2018, Beatriz was afraid to return to school. She considered herself an “older student” who had to learn to use the technology for her classes and learn to study again. But with three semesters under her belt, Beatriz felt encouraged and confident. She decided to go for her Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Health Information Technology. 

Beatriz wasn’t just passionate about her studies at Malcolm X—she also served as the President of the student association for the Health Information Technology program. The group advocated for students and connected them with industry professionals through roundtable discussions.  

She was a peer tutor, an honors student, and her impressive GPA earned her a spot in the academic honor society, Phi Theta Kappa. But Beatriz said she couldn’t have accomplished this without the help of her instructors, her husband, and her daughter, who is also a City Colleges of Chicago graduate. 

The pandemic interrupted in-person learning for Beatriz, but a sense of community was still there, even over Zoom. On one occasion, students grieved together over loved ones lost to COVID-19. The instructor invited people from Malcolm X College’s Wellness Center to explain the free services available to support them through hardship.   

“I feel like that’s a family spirit that we had within our cohort,” Beatriz said. “We were in it together. I will never forget that.” 

She also felt supported by Malcolm X’s Career and Academic Support Centers. The Career Center helped her write a resume, a cover letter, and look for a job. Additionally, a tutor from the Academic Support Center helped Beatriz with technology. 

In the Fall of 2021, Beatriz passed her Registered Health Information Technician exam. She will soon start as a Billing Specialist. 

“I never felt so prepared during job interviews in my past,” she said. “I know what I learned at Malcolm X is going to come through, and I’m going to be the best employee because of what I learned there.”

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