Ever since she was a little girl, Mercedes Butler has been serving as a nurse. “My great grandmother lived with us, and I would help take care of her,” Mercedes recalled. “I would help her cook and lay down. I would help clean her up.” In third grade Mercedes already knew what she wanted to do when she grew up.
Along the way, Mercedes’ sister has inspired her. Her sister is 10 years older than Mercedes and works as an operating room nurse. Mercedes frequently asks her sister to share stories of her days in the hospital.
Now a senior at IDEA, Mercedes has already begun taking the steps necessary to make her childhood dream a reality. Last summer Mercedes participated in the DC Health Academic Prep Program, which introduces high school students to a variety of careers in medicine, such as nursing, anesthesiology, physical therapy, research, and more. DC HAPP is a four-week, full-day program sponsored by the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
“Through DC HAP, I met a nurse practitioner and she told me a lot about her career,” explained Mercedes. “I definitely want to go down that road, but I also want to work in an emergency department. First, I want to be a paramedic, then work in a hospital, and eventually become a charge nurse after I gain experience as a registered nurse.” Mercedes is eager to work in a fast-paced environment like the emergency room. “In the hospital, all the trauma is coming to you.”
DC HAP participants had the opportunity to observe lung surgery. “We were in an auditorium watching the live surgery,” Mercedes said. “They had cameras in the operating room. The surgeon was so comfortable and in his zone, but surgery is not for me. I can deal with blood and vomit and everything else.”
Mercedes plans to earn her undergraduate nursing degree and then take the exam to certify her as a registered nurse. She is currently undecided about which college she will attend but will now have more options thanks to a recent scholarship awarded to her by the Economic Club of Washington, which will pay $20,000 a year toward her tuition to reward her for academic achievement in high school.
Outside of the classroom, Mercedes is a scholar-athlete on IDEA’s volleyball and softball teams, and she works part-time at Kohl’s department store. Mercedes also volunteers during school breaks at MedStar Washington Hospital and at George Washington University Hospital. “I help clean up, I greet patients, and I try to make them smile even when they’re in pain,” she said.
Mercedes credits her teachers and advisors at IDEA with providing the educational building blocks and exposure to enrichment activities that have helped her get into nursing school and encouraged her to follow her dream.