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JSCC director shares journey of struggles and hope in new book

Sep 20th, 2019

In Monica Ray's darkest moments, she watched her mother and newborn daughter fight for their lives in separate hospitals at the same time.

Her mother did not survive. Her daughter survived but has faced chronic illness most of her life. After 23 years of watching her daughter struggle and dealing with her own feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, and guilt, Ray, Jackson State's Director of Nursing Program Admissions, has honed her message.

"Embrace or splash in the life you've been given and do your very best to find purpose in it," she said. "We all have tremendous struggles. We all have tremendous challenges. But through God's providence, He is going to give you what you need to get through it, one day at a time."

She details her message of growth and hope in her new book, "Learning to Splash, Conquering the Life You Have Been Given," which chronicles her life's journey and the lessons she's learned in battling personal turmoil. She will celebrate the book's launch from noon to 3 p.m. on Sept. 21 at Vance Fellowship Hall, 1461 East Chester St. During the event, she will read from the book and sign copies for readers.

Ray's journey at Jackson State began 34 years ago before her life changed so dramatically. She started as an admissions recruiter. She later served as Admissions Director for nearly 10 years, and she has been Director of Nursing Program Admissions for 10 years.

Her husband of 36 years, Lee, has supported her as she's managed a career and the needs of their daughter, who has grown from an infant in neonatal intensive care to a vibrant young woman. She's also had support from the school, which she said is a remarkable environment where she feels like she is part of a family.

"It's turned out to be a really good fit for me," said Ray, who has a bachelor's degree from Murray State and a master's degree from the University of Memphis.

Her career has been spent helping students gain access and getting students off to the right start. She's worked with students from 17 years old to 60 as the college has developed programs to serve people from all walks of life.

"We are even more in tune with what's needed in the West Tennessee area," she said. "It's a very unique and wonderful niche we are working to fill."

As the Nursing Program has progressed, Ray said students are learning that they need to be prepared. "It's very doable, but I tell them that they are going to have to work extremely hard. From a personal perspective, I call nurses 'my angels on earth' whose expertise and compassionate care changed my family's life."

Her message of hope is uniquely poignant for a community college, where students are beginning their professional lives, entering second careers, or coming back to school for additional education to advance. And many are doing it while supporting a family at home.

"All around us we have ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and I think we need to celebrate that more," she said. "We think our lives are small, but they're really huge and illuminating."

And if you're feeling overwhelmed? "You are not alone," she said. "There is always hope and help."

The book is available at as well as at where you can learn more about Ray's journey.

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