By Benjamin Wideman / Director of Media Relations
A life-changing experience can happen when you least expect it.
For Atarah “Tye” Jones, that moment happened when she was only 3 years old.
Playing in the kitchen of her family’s Milwaukee home on May 11, 1998, a young Tye accidentally knocked a pot off the stove and was doused by the hot liquid.
“Right away I looked to see what happened and she wasn’t crying at all, which I thought was odd,” said her mother, Monica Miller. “I don’t know if she was in shock, but she was just standing there looking at me. I could tell something wasn’t right. So I put her in the tub and ran cold water all over her, and that’s when her skin started washing off. I saw that and started getting hysterical, and that made her get hysterical, so we quickly went to the hospital.”
The second-degree burns inflicted upon much of Tye’s back, left arm and neck necessitated a three-week stay in the hospital’s burn unit.
“I don’t remember a lot because I was so young, but I do remember being in a hospital and the nurses were so nice and helpful,” Tye said. “That really stuck with me and inspired me. For a long time now, I’ve wanted to be a pediatric nurse in a burn unit and help children like those nurses helped me when I was little.”
Tye is pursuing that career goal at Silver Lake College, where she’s a sophomore majoring in nursing.
The Wisconsin Board of Nursing voted unanimously in January to approve authorization for Silver Lake College to begin admitting students to its new four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, which starts in the fall of 2016.
“I was so happy when I heard the nursing program was approved here,” Tye said. “It was just in time. Now I don’t have to move anywhere else to get the degree I want. I want to spend the rest of my college years at Silver Lake.”
Brianna Neuser, director of the BSN program, is Tye’s academic advisor. Brianna said you’d never know Tye’s backstory based on her friendly demeanor.
“Tye has a contagious personality and always welcomes you with a smile,” Brianna said. “She models dedication to the nursing profession through her hard work, both inside and outside of the classroom. Tye seeks out professional experiences that afford her the opportunity to give back to the health care community.”
Added Tye: “Brianna has been like a second mother on campus for me. She has been a guiding light. She’s one of the reasons I really like Silver Lake.”
However, Tye acknowledges life wasn’t always so cheerful.
Throughout much of her childhood, she endured bullying and name-calling from other children because of her scars.
“Some people were very mean to me,” Tye said. “Some people called me Scarface and stuff like that. It was hard to deal with sometimes. There were days I’d come home from school crying. But my friends and family have always been supportive, and that has meant a lot to me.”
In turn, Tye wants to support others so she’s forming an organization with the help of her mother called Flawless Scars.
“I want to travel and talk to younger children who were burned,” Tye said of Flawless Scars. “It doesn’t matter if you have scars or not, you’re still flawless. And I want younger kids who were burned to know that too.”
Tye thrives on helping people. She serves as a peer mentor for a group of Silver Lake College freshmen, and she volunteers with the college’s Look Ahead Lakers, a program whose mission is to inspire at-risk students to believe a college education is in their future.
Tye also works full-time at Artisan Senior Living in Manitowoc, in addition to working two jobs on campus — one at Mimi’s Café and the other assisting Jan Algozine, the Director of Experiential Learning, Career Resources and Internships.
“She works very hard,” said her mother, Monica, who also works multiple jobs, including one as a certified nursing assistant (she’s also pursuing a nursing degree). “She took a traumatic event in her life and made it into a positive. She didn’t let it dictate her life in a negative way. I’m definitely very proud of the woman she is becoming.
“I have no doubt she chose the right profession. It’s a great fit for her, and we need more nurses these days.”
Tye said she’s excited to help fill the growing need for nurses and share her experiences with patients recovering from burn injuries.
“What happened with the burns affected me … but it was in a good way. It made me the person I am today,” she said. “It pushed me to continue to go to school and help others.
“Everything happens for a reason. Our scars make us who we are today.”