Graduate Turns Trauma Into Triumph

Student Success Story

Coral Connor may only be in her 20s, but this Sacramento State speech pathology graduate has already found a mantra to live by. “I think turning your trauma into triumph is something a lot of people can relate to,” she says.

Coral saw the mantra in action while volunteering at the NeuroService Alliance at Sacramento State. She worked with two women who suffered strokes, which had lasting effects on their ability to communicate. 

The organization offers “a safe space,” Coral explains, where adults, like Sherrie and Debby, have a support group and can learn new skills to express themselves through art and the use of technology.

Coral adds: “When they come to the NeuroService Alliance, they’re surrounded by students, caregivers and other people with aphasia, who know how to help them through any difficulties they’re having.”

A lifelong artist, Sherrie lost the use of her right hand following her stroke. During her weekly sessions, she’s been developing the fine motor skills in her left hand and today, she’s still able to paint.

Debbie’s stroke resulted in language difficulties related to brain damage. Her ability to communicate, though, was greatly enhanced when she learned how to use her electronic device for email, reading and other everyday tasks.

“They’re turning their traumas into triumph and making something positive of the difficulties they’re going through,” Coral says. “That’s what I find really inspiring.”

Coral graduated in December after completing the Second Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Sacramento State, a program designed for college graduates who’ve decided to switch careers to speech pathology.

After earning her first bachelor’s degree in psychology, Coral worked in finance for a time before realizing the job wasn’t the right fit. Now with her second bachelor’s degree in the required subject matter, she’s applying to a master’s program in speech pathology.

Coral plans to become a speech-language pathologist and may specialize in working with adults with brain injuries and speech impairments. 

Video: Graduate Turns Trauma Into Triumph

“She is extremely compassionate and empathetic,” says Dr. Heather Thompson, a speech pathology professor at Sacramento State who’s watched Coral progress through the program. “I think she would work extremely well with a diverse population and provide services that allow for their needs to be met.”

Coral was shaped, in part, by a childhood trauma. Her family went through some tough economic times, losing their home to foreclosure and ending up homeless for a time.

This experience left Coral with a noticeable maturity and her own personal manta: turn your trauma into triumph. “Students need to know that regardless of their background, they can be successful – and not just in spite of it, but sometimes because of it,” she says.

Be sure to watch Coral’s video and how she turned her a traumatic episode in her life into a personal triumph. She is the first college graduate in her family and now, the first to earn two bachelor’s degrees.

For more information, check out the Second Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders web page.

This degree completion program is offered through the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (formerly the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology) at the College of Health and Human Services at Sacramento State, in conjunction with the College of Continuing Education.

Learn more about the NeuroService Alliance, a life participation program at Sacramento State, developed by professor, Dr. Darla Hagge. The organization offers services to adults with communication disorders and provides hands-on experience for undergraduate and graduate students studying speech pathology.