Over its 45 year history, Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) has had many outstanding graduates. But, Sandra Miller of Newark may be one of the most selfless, and that is why she is the recipient of the COTC John C. "Jay" Barker Community Service Alumni Award. The award recognizes COTC alumni who have made a significant impact by their service for the betterment of our community.
Miller, 69, graduated with a nursing degree from COTC in 1981. Miller grew up in Utica and got married when she was 21 years old. After having a child, she decided it was time to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.
"When I realized that I could go after my nursing degree at a college that was nearby, I knew I had to do it," said Miller. "All my life I wanted to become a nurse. As a tiny kid, I would make myself little nurse hats and run around with them on. I would tell my parents all the time 'I'm going to be a nurse when I grow up.'"
Miller didn't just become a nurse, she became a legend. She worked at health centers and hospitals after graduation, but eventually realized that she wanted to use her skills to help people across the nation as a disaster relief volunteer with the American Red Cross (ARC). Miller served 19 years with the ARC and assisted in 38 disasters, including September 11th.
"I'll never get over 9-11 because of the smells and just how horrible it was," said Miller. "I will never forget that."
Even though the situations she entered were devastating, Miller said she was able to lift the spirits of those who were experiencing traumatic situations.
"I would tell everybody, you couldn't pay me enough for as much as I got out of it," said Miller. "Everyone would come up afterward, and they would hug you and kiss you and thank you. It was just phenomenal."
However, her work helping those in need ended abruptly in 2004. An accident during a disaster confined Miller to a wheelchair.
"I was hurt during Hurricane Ivan. It was a flood. I fell in the water, broke my leg in two places and broke my ankle. So, it kind of ended my nursing career in a hurry, but I have no regrets. I'm not angry at anyone," said Miller. "It just happens."
Miller has a scrapbook that holds photos and awards to remember her time with the ARC. She received accolades from across the state of Ohio for her work. She was also recognized nationally with the Clara Barton Honor Award for Meritorious Leadership. The award is one of the highest awards the ARC bestows on volunteers. Recipients of the award are inducted into the Clara Barton Honor Society.
"My parents taught me to always help other people and always remember to treat others with respect while you're on the way up because on the way down you are going to meet those same people again, and they'll remember you," said Miller. "People have been wonderful. They've helped me so much, and people have gone out of their way to be kind to me and to say nice things to me, which I very much appreciate."
Miller hopes her story inspires others to follow their dreams and use their talents to help others. She credits her ability to do that to COTC.
"I have a great deal of respect for COTC because COTC really is where I got my start," said Miller. "If I hadn't gone to COTC, I would never have become a nurse, and I wouldn't have had the opportunity to go around the world to help others."
Central Ohio Technical College opened in 1971 and is celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2016. COTC is a fully accredited, public college dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible programs of technical education in response to current and emerging employment needs, as well as encouraging the professional development of students, staff, faculty and administrators to assist them in achieving their maximum potential. COTC is the only technical college in Ohio operating four full-service campus locations: Newark, Coshocton, Knox and Pataskala.