Online BSN Valedictorian Sets Lofty Goals and Achieves Them

Debbie Dawn Leoncio, BSN

Whether you’re a firefighter or involved in police work, whether you’re a doctor or a nurse, if you’re a frontline worker, commitment is part of your DNA.

If you’re looking for a perfect case in point, look no further than Debbie Leoncio, a Supervising RN at Patton State Hospital who graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from West Coast University on July 9 as one of two valedictorians from the school’s Online Programs.

Leoncio said she was “really proud” of herself, but not because she was valedictorian or because she got straight A’s; rather, she was proud of herself for having accomplished such a difficult and challenging goal that she’d committed herself to achieving.

“I was just thinking, ‘I want to prove to myself that I can do this’,” she said. “I got all A’s in my (Associates Degree in Nursing) program (at San Bernardino Valley College), but it wasn’t so much that I wanted to get all A’s (at WCU) – I just wanted to prove to myself that I could excel in things that were so hard.”  

English as a Second Language

As if the coursework and balancing a full-time job that often required extra shifts wasn’t challenging enough, WCU’s Online Programs are primarily based on written papers, and for Leoncio, English is her second language. Her native language is Tagalog.

“In the beginning, I was really nervous writing papers because in the Associate program, you don’t write as many papers,” she said. “But I just started each paper early, took my time, and every paper I wrote, I wanted to do better for the next one.”

Well, having received A’s in her first class, Leoncio didn’t leave much room “to do better for the next one,” but she proceeded to get an A in her second class, and every class she took after that en route to her Online BSN degree at West Coast University.

Excelling in Online Programs

WCU’s Online Programs proved to be a highly effective schooling solution for Leoncio because she said she oftentimes had to stay on for another shift that would lead into the next day. Because it’s difficult to plan for those sorts of things, you can’t reliably attend a school that expects you to be in a class at a certain time.

Thankfully for Leoncio, with the Online Programs at West Coast University, flexibility is one of the key considerations. There’s a clear understanding that children and/or work can present unexpected scheduling quirks; therefore, giving students that flexibility in terms of when they are required to do their work during the week is critical. Still, even flexible online coursework requires discipline.

Leoncio would listen to audio recordings or read through notes during her lunch breaks. Additionally, with her papers, she always made sure to get an early start to allow for any “surprises” that could delay her writing process.

Secret to Success

So what does every online WCU student need to make it to graduation day? Reflecting on her experience, Leoncio had a simple answer for what helped her achieve nursing school success — and it’s an answer that is echoed by many of our other online students:

“Time management.”

What other academic advice does Leoncio have for students just getting started or thinking about an Online Program at West Coast University?

“Balance,” she said. “You need to make sure you allot time to study, but you have to have fun, too. You need to balance work, family, school and self-care – relaxing or exercise, going out with friends. There were days I definitely thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this,’ and I would just shut down my computer and go for a walk, just clear my mind, sometimes go out with friends… just anything to distract myself.”

Also, she said, “You have to make sure it’s what you want. Passion is really important. If you have (passion), you will give 100%.”

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