She Became a Nurse to Honor Her Grandmother
Elizabeth Adapoe became a nurse to honor the memory of her beloved grandmother. “She was not a
professional nurse, but she loved everyone and took care of everyone,” explained Elizabeth. “I want to
repay her by taking care of people the way she did.”
That dream seemed to fade, though, when Elizabeth struggled with her studies in the PCCC nursing
program and, at one point, became so discouraged she nearly quit.
But with the support of her family and the nursing faculty, Elizabeth persisted, received her Associate in
Applied Science in Nursing degree in the Class of 2022, and was brought to tears by the unexpected
surprise she received at last June’s nurse pinning ceremony.
In an amazing turnaround, Elizabeth received the “Professional Nursing Award,” given each year to the
graduating student who demonstrated clinical excellence throughout the program. “I couldn’t believe
it,” said Elizabeth.
Growing up in Ghana, Elizabeth admired her grandmother, Dora, who had 13 children of her own, yet
was ready to respond to anyone in need, offering food to hungry neighbors, tending to a child’s bruised
knee, or just being there to provide comfort. “She was the matriarch of our family and the mother of the
whole community,” said Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth was 17 and about to come to the US with her two brothers, the teenager confided to
her grandmother, whom she called Imang, that she was anxious about leaving home. In reply, Imang
reassured her, “God is giving you something great.” Looking back, Elizabeth now sees that prediction as
a reference to her gift for nursing. “My grandmother saw it in me before I did.”
Living in New York, Elizabeth started her higher education at Bronx Community College, majoring in
nuclear medicine. After a time, though, she decided to take a break from school to devote more time to
raising her three young children. “My husband and I wanted our kids to be well grounded in their family
and education,” she explained.
The family moved to New Jersey where Elizabeth earned her credentials as a licensed practical nurse
(LPN) through a business college in 2009 and began working for in-patient hospice at Holy Name
Medical Center in Teaneck.
“I take my nursing career very seriously,” said Elizabeth. “Caring for another human being is a big
responsibility. The patients and their families put their trust in me.”
With her children grown, Elizabeth set out to fulfill her dream of becoming a registered nurse. In 2018,
with the support of her family, she enrolled at PCCC.
“I chose PCCC because the College has a strong nursing program and was also the most affordable
choice,” said Elizabeth, a Bergen County resident.
As an adult student who also had a job, Elizabeth struggled to keep up with her younger classmates.
“They seemed to learn so much faster,” she admits. Because English is her second language, Elizabeth
reads slowly in order to thoroughly understand the material. Also, the shift to remote learning during
the pandemic was extremely challenging for her.
After failing an exam, Elizabeth wanted to quit. The nursing faculty, however, refused to let her give up.
“You are not going to quit,” Professor Marisa Cruise insisted. “We won’t let you.”
Elizabeth was amazed and uplifted by the support of the nursing professors. “God sent angels to help
me, and those professors were the angels.”
Professor Heather Griffiths encouraged her to start over and progress at her own pace. It was a plan that
suited Elizabeth’s learning style and personality. Additionally, her classmates were also supportive. “It
was really a community of encouragement,” said Elizabeth.
So is her family, which is a haven of healing. Elizabeth’s husband, Charles, is a retired radiologic
technologist; son Matthew, 27, has a master’s degree in pharmaceutical chemistry; daughters Janet-
Ashley, 25, earned a bachelor’s degree in art therapy, and Mara, 20, who is currently attending Felician
Since last year, Elizabeth has been working three jobs, two in hospitals and one in a senior living facility,
though she is now transitioning to role of RN in those jobs. Next spring, she will enter an RN to BSN
program at New Jersey City University, and she has the goal to one day earn her master’s degree.
Most fulfilling for Elizabeth, though, is her service to patients as a nurse. “I carry my grandmother with
me,” she said. “I can’t think of a better way to honor her than by taking care of others.”