Former higgler works to become registered nurse

June 08, 2021
Dr Mitzie Ballintine
Dr Mitzie Ballintine

Last month, Jamaica-born Dr Mitzie Ballintine, who manages a community health clinic in Orlando, Florida, graduated with a doctorate in nursing practice (honours).

It marks the latest achievement for Ballintine, who had to overcome struggles in her childhood and teen years. Ballintine, who was born in Kingston in 1966, lived in Rockfort with her mother, stepfather and four siblings. After a few years, the family relocated to Harbour View, and then the unexpected occurred. Her stepfather, the main breadwinner, died leaving her mother alone to care for five children.

"My mother had gone into higglering, selling ground provisions and other food items at the Harbour View market to support us, it was really difficult for us," Ballintine recalled. "As the eldest one, I had to help my mother sometimes at the market. Other times I had to play the role of second mother taking care of my siblings, one younger sister and three brothers, while our mother was out hustling to put food on the table, send us to school and pay the rent."

When Ballintine started attending the then-named Donald Quarrie Secondary, life did not get much easier for her.

"Because I had to help my mother out, my attendance was bad. I wore one pair of ballet shoes to school for many years resulting in callouses on my toes. Also I only had one uniform and was often teased by my classmates. That was the period my self-confidence somewhat waned," she disclosed.

Ballintine revealed that while at Donald Quarrie, she sat the technical school entrance examination for St Andrew Technical and was successful. But life threw her another curve ball.

Mother and father to my siblings

"I was about 15 when my mother, finding it very hard to care for us, decided to relocate to Grand Cayman to do higglering there. Now I was left to be both mother and father to my siblings," she said. Ballintine now had to sell food stuff that her mother sent in order to feed the family.

"As a young girl I had to present myself at the airport, sometimes late nights, competing with other higglers to collect my goods and then get up and go out to the Harbour View shopping centre to sell boxes of cornflakes and other stuff so I could send them to school, provide food and pay the rent. This affected my attendance in high school so I did not graduate," she said.

Ballintine said after a while, things improved, because her mother worked her way to the US and put herself in a position to file for them.

After her filing came through and she landed in the US, Ballintine got employment in the care industry. She immediately went for her General Education Development (GED) certificate which allowed her to enter nursing school, a decision she made because of a medical condition her younger brother, now deceased, had. She graduated with her applied associate degree (honours) in nursing and later earned a bachelor of science (honours) in nursing. In 2001 she stepped up to be an advanced practice registered nurse, and acquired her master of science degree, also with honours in nursing.

"Although I came from humble beginnings, I held my head high, because I believe in myself and I had the faith that my Creator would provide a path to excellence for me," she said.

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