Despite Challenges, Nursing Graduate Finds Strength, Success in ‘Different Abilities’
Wanting to live a life of purpose, Yael Bilsky ’21, overcame obstacles to follow her dream.
Yael Bilsky’s path from her first year at York College of Pennsylvania to graduation was full of twists, a few potholes, and at least one U–turn. Bilsky learns differently than most of her peers—she has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. And just like it usually took her longer to finish a test, it took some extra time for her to find her footing at college.
But, each time she faced adversity, she dug down deep and pushed through. It wasn’t fear of failure or the promise of a future paycheck that drove her. Rather, she wants her life to have purpose.
Earlier this year, she took a giant step toward that purpose: Graduating from York College with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
Chasing the feeling
Bilsky discovered her love of medicine and helping others in high school as a volunteer EMT. One day she was at the scene of a car accident. It wasn’t bad—just a fender bender—but the driver of the car was pretty upset. Bilsky soothed her by complimenting the woman’s nail polish, and a wide smile replaced her tears. “It was so satisfying,” she says. “I just wanted to chase that feeling.”
It was that moment that inspired her to pursue a degree in nursing. “It kind of dawned on me that this was something that was a hobby, and I could turn it into a career,” she says.
Visiting York College sealed the deal. There were barely any lecture halls, only small classrooms where she’d be able to thrive. “I can actually see my success here,” Bilsky remembers thinking.
But, the adjustment from high school to college was difficult. There were bumps in the road as she acclimated to the expectations of professors and realized just how much effort each class required.
As a student with different abilities, Bilsky worked closely with Linda Miller, former Director for Student Accessibility Services. Miller helped her figure out how to problem-solve issues, acted as a liaison to professors when necessary, and on more than one occasion, offered a shoulder for Bilsky to cry on.
More than anything, she helped Bilsky be her own advocate. She was there for support, but it was Bilsky’s job to understand her learning needs were her own. “She kind of also kicked you a lot, like in a good way,” Bilsky says.
It was up to her to tell her professor if she needed extra help or more time. “I can learn the same material,” Bilsky says. “I just do it in a different way that works for me. I’m an adaptive learner.”
A ‘mitzvah’ every day
It would have been easy for Bilsky to justify focusing only on herself during college, but that’s not who she is. She volunteered in the Autism Peer Mentoring Program, working with a fellow student who needed extra support. She has a brother on the autism spectrum, so working in the mentor program just felt like home for her.
With WellSpan York Hospital just up the road from York College, Bilsky says she found endless learning opportunities and realized her ADHD actually helped her as a nurse. She’s visually aware and thrives in the structured, organized environment of an operating room. She can’t wait to put her skills to use helping others.
“‘Mitzvah’ is the concept of doing good deeds for others,” Bilsky says. “I want to do a mitzvah every day. I feel like that’s my life’s purpose.”
Although she graduated a few months ago, it hasn’t fully sunk in that she’s made it, graduating with a high GPA and doing great on her nurse licensing exam. “I really made my dream. I made it possible,” Bilsky says. “Obviously, my path is a little messier than others, but I did it. Who cares how I got there.”