July 1, 2020

“Great Bay has become my extended family because of my personal tragedy. They’ve given me a push to continue.”

Thanks to GBCC Graduate, Liz Caramihalis for Sharing her Story of Working Through Personal Tragedy and Finding the Support to Pursue a 2nd Career.

Class of 2020

Elizabeth Caramihalis got the worst news a mother can get while on campus at Great Bay Community College, just two weeks after she enrolled to begin her new life as a nurse.

She was preparing for a night class when she got a call from police informing her that her son had committed suicide. She was in the office of the Center For Academic Planning and Support at the time of the call, and everyone rallied. They provided whatever comfort they could in the moment of the crisis, arranged for transportation to her home in York and followed up to meet her immediate and continued needs.

“They were spectacular,” Caramihalis, now 60, said. At a time of enormous grief, she chose to stay in school, fully committing to her studies to become a nurse, because of the support of her peers, professors and administrators. “Great Bay has become my extended family because of my personal tragedy. People cared and they wanted me here. I felt wanted and feel wanted. They’ve given me a push to continue.”

Caramihalis will graduate this spring with an associate degree in nursing. It represents her second career, after 25 years as a teacher in Maine and New Hampshire. She earned three degrees in her education career, which she left nine years ago.

She juggled jobs at a pharmacy chain with part-time work as personal care assistant, and was taking several classes related to her work, when a friend who worked as a senior administrator at Great Bay suggested she look at the college’s nursing program. “She said, ‘You’re taking all these classes. Maybe you could think about getting into nursing. We have a great program at Great Bay.’ She looked at my transcripts and said I would need to take a couple of classes as prerequisites and would be on my way,” Caramihalis said.

In the years since, she’s become a certified and licensed nursing assistant and now works at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. She received her associate degree at Great Bay in May 2020, and plans to continue her education at a nearby four-year school.

Her goal is to work as an operating room nurse. “I am healthy, and I love to learn,” she said.