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Single Parent Navigates Mitchell Tech with Help of Instructors

Kassi Barington-Steele (Medical Assistant ’16) credits the faculty at Mitchell Tech with helping her embark upon a rewarding career while also raising a growing family.

The Mitchell High School graduate came to college knowing things might be harder for her than for her peers, as she was halfway through her first pregnancy when classes started.

“It wasn’t easy, but I had awesome support with my family and instructors,”
she said.

Her daughter was born during her first Christmas break from college, and she was able to keep on track with her studies, with one instructor even coming in over the break to let her take a math test because she was gone the day of the test. Even when she had to take time off for a sick child or to care for her dad after he had surgery, she felt supported.
“The instructors and administration worked hard to make sure that I got to where I needed to be without having to take time off,” she said. “They helped me … get back up to par without getting behind or failing, and tutors were always available, which was great to have.”

Living with both her parents and her young child, Barington-Steele said the Center for Student Success and its staff became a safe haven on the hard days.

“It was great to have a nice, quiet area where people weren’t coming and going, to be able to focus and study,” she said. “I needed that escape.”

And, when she realized that her “people person personality” was better suited to working more directly in patient care with the Medical Assistant program than to working in a medical laboratory just a semester before graduation, those same resources helped her stay on track and graduate with just one extra year of study and a bit of summer work.

“All of the instructors were great about getting my credits transferred over and not having to take spring off and start over in the fall,” she said. “All of my classes transferred over, and some I sat through again to get a refresher for the MA program.”

Barington-Steele said she never questioned whether her instructors cared about her as a student, nor now as an alum.

“The instructors – especially Dezarae Fenski – believe wholeheartedly in their students,” she said, adding that Fenske has encouraged her to return to campus to become a licensed practical nurse and, later, a registered nurse, something Barington-Steele hasn’t ruled out. “It was truly a positive experience. The instructors did great to keep me on track and answer all of my questions. Everything was accessible, and it was easy to get the help that I needed.”

Plus, Barington-Steele said, there was another perk: delicious food prepared by students in the South Dakota Culinary Academy.

“I still got home-cooked meals, as I was living with my parents, but those who were from out-of-town were still getting nice, home-cooked meals,” she said.

And the family functions, including a visit from Santa and an Easter egg hunt, made life as a young parent easier, too.

“That was really nice to have, especially with me having a child,” she said. “They were very supportive, which was really nice, because it isn’t easy being a young, teen mom.”


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