The inspiration for Aanjele Miller’s college degree weighs about 30 pounds and fits comfortably on her hip: her 2-year-old daughter, Ajourney.
“I wanted to have children. I wanted to be able to support my child. That’s why I turned my life around and went to South Piedmont,” said Miller.
Miller will graduate with her Associate in Applied Science in Medical Office Administration-Medical Billing and Coding this May.
It’s an achievement many years in the making.
While attending West Mecklenburg High School, Miller became addicted to drugs and alcohol. She dropped out in the ninth grade, and in the years that followed, worked a variety of jobs, mostly in housekeeping and food service.
By 2012, Miller realized that the path she was following would never take her to what she wanted most — motherhood. She entered rehab, got sober, worked two jobs to save money for her tuition, and in 2018, enrolled at SPCC. She selected the Medical Office Administration program for the opportunities and higher wages it would put within reach.
Two years ago, as a college student on the path toward a stable, self-sufficient future, Miller gave birth to her daughter, giving her a name to represent the twists and turns her life took before finally leading her to the delivery room.
“It has been a journey. That’s why that’s her name,” Miller said.
“It is amazing how far I’ve come. I thank God for it. I’m a better person. I’m free from drugs and alcohol. I’m graduating college, and I’m able to support my daughter.”
Earlier this year, she was promoted to the position of health information manager at a skilled nursing center in Charlotte.
“I make schedules for the doctors, pull records for the doctors, update the patients’ charts for the nurses and doctors,” said Miller.
What Miller most enjoys is the chance to use information to make personal connections with the patients living at the facility. Their charts might list that they served in the military, or that they like certain foods. Miller pays close attention and uses what she learns to build relationships.
“When I have the time, I talk to them about their lives,” she said. “I ask them more about their families, or about the kind of work they did earlier in life. I let them know they have a friend. I’m their friend. I’m their family.”
The average annual pay for a health information manager in North Carolina is $48,919 a year — approximately $23.52 per hour. The pay, consistent work hours, and confidence that she will always be able to find work in her field has transformed the way Miller thinks about the future.
She’s set up a college savings account for Ajourney, certain that she’ll be able to make regular contributions, and is looking forward to vacations at Discovery Place and SEA LIFE — luxuries she couldn’t have afforded just a few years ago.
Miller hopes her graduation this May will serve as inspiration for others.
“Don’t give up on yourself. Keep going. Never let anyone stop you. Believe in yourself. It is never too late. I’m 41. It took me a long time to get here, but here I am,” she said.
The fact that she will receive her degree on Mother’s Day weekend, with Ajourney looking on, makes her accomplishment all the more special. Ajourney may be too young to remember this graduation, but it will forever change her life — Miller will make sure of it.
“She’s going to grow up knowing that she can do this too. She’s going to be able to say, ‘My mom didn’t let anything stop her, and neither am I.’”
Learn more about SPCC’s Medical Office Administration program.