KOKOMO, Ind. — Most 16-year-olds are focused on learning to drive a car.
When Leeza (Price) Jackman was that age, she was studying how to measure someone’s body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure, to assess physical condition.
Jackman graduated from home school and enrolled at Indiana University Kokomo when she was 16 — young enough that her mother had to drive her from their home in Elwood to campus, because she didn’t yet have her driver’s license.
“I was really nervous at first, because it’s college, and I wasn’t sure about it,” she said, “It was important to me to do well, because I’ve always wanted to be a nurse. Once I started my classes, everything was fine.”
In December 2017, she graduated with distinction from the School of Nursing, just two months before her 21st birthday, making her the program’s youngest graduate in at least the last 10 years. Faculty noted she maintained a strong grade point average throughout the program.
“Leeza is such an inspiration to many, including myself,” said Amanda Leffler, assistant professor of nursing, adding that she only knew Jackman’s age because she asked.
“Her compassion translates seamlessly over to her patients, and her full-of-life personality promotes the ultimate goal, healing,” said Leffler. “Leeza is a highly motivated, self-driven, confident, and well-organized person who will impact the nursing profession in a positive way. She will truly be an asset to her employer, and I am proud to have her as an alumna and fellow nurse.”
Since graduating she’s married, moved to Evansville, and started her career as a neuro-ICU nurse at Deaconess Hospital, caring for patients with life-threatening neurological problems.
“Working as a nurse is everything I dreamed it would be,” she said. “It’s everything I’ve always wanted to do. I love my job and the people I work with. I feel like every day I get to help make someone’s life better. That includes my patients and a lot of times, their families.”
Jackman remembers being nervous about starting classes when she was at least two years younger than most of her classmates, but found her homeschooling had prepared her well.
“Once I got started, it was fine,” she said. “I really liked that IU Kokomo has smaller classes. I always knew I could go to my professors and ask for help. All of the faculty were great, and I learned something from each one.”
Jackman noted that only her advisor knew at first how young she was — and she made sure her academic performance was up to par with her classmates.
“I knew nursing was my passion,” she said. “I was determined to do my best to succeed in this profession. I always tried to sit at the front of my classes to be sure I got all the information I needed.”
Her mother — who had been her homeschool teacher — was uniquely qualified to help Jackman in nursing school, as she is also a nurse.
While she’s happy to have the opportunity to graduate from college at a young age, there were times it was difficult to be that far ahead of her peers.
“There were times I couldn’t go places with my friends in high school, because I had to study,” she said.
While in nursing school, Jackman also worked as a student technician in post-partum obstetrics and gynecology at Community Howard Regional Health, taking patient vitals, weighing newborns, and answering patient call lights, among other duties, and also was a nurse’s aide. Both of those piqued her interest in nursing in a hospital setting.
“I really like the idea of being a floor nurse, and interacting with my patients,” she said.
It was important to her that she stayed involved in her church as well, where she helped in children’s ministry.
“I feel like my faith helped me get through my nursing program,” Jackman said. “I’ve just trusted God with my life, and he’s led me to be successful.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.