CWC Student of the Year Myriah Deckard is pictured center, along with fellow nursing students Ashley Marshall (left) and Sarah Heinrich (right). Contributed photo.

By: Sarah Elmquist Squires
Managing Editor

Myriah Deckard, a second-year Central Wyoming College (CWC) nursing student, found out something was going on with a little email. Vice President of Student Affairs Coralina Daly simply wrote that Deckard had been nominated for an award, and would she mind stopping by the office to talk about it.

“I didn’t even know this was a thing,” shared Deckard of finding out that she had been named CWC’s Student of the Year. But fellow students and faculty alike agree: Deckard’s tenacity, her dedication to the rigorous nursing program and her classmates, made her a shoe-in for the top honors.

“She has been an excellent student, a role model for her classmates, and has played an instrumental role in team building between the sophomore and freshman students,” explained nursing instructor Melissa Sperry.

Deckard has maintained a 4.0 GPA at CWC, and also created a mentor program for new nursing students that helps provide feedback to instructors and improve the program. But the work hasn’t been without its challenges. “There are jokes and memes about what it’s like to be a nursing student, and they’re all true,” said Deckard of the rigors of nursing education. It is a hard path for any student nurse, but for Deckard, who has struggled with a disease since she was a young teen, one that drains her energy especially in response to stress, the work required extra commitment and self-advocacy.

One of the things that truly impressed both Deckard’s instructors and her fellow students began when she was approached about creating a video that detailed her personal medical experiences. She initially hesitated, then decided to film the video and her personal insights into the medical condition she has kept fairly private for years.

In an interview, Deckard said she wanted to share those details in an effort to help others. After being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 13, Deckard spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals, which also contributed to her desire to become a nurse herself. She has a permanent ileostomy, which is an opening in the abdominal wall made during surgery that diverts the lower intestine to an opening called a stoma, which requires care and is fitted with an ostomy. Deckard said when she was younger, she thought it was embarrassing, and she hasn’t opened up much about it. “Especially in TV shows, ostomies are always portrayed as disgusting and terrible and a fate worse than death,” she said. “In reality, it changed my life for the better.”

In nursing school, there’s a small segment of study that shares information about ostomy care, and Deckard figured that through her video she could help educate her fellow nursing students in a way that went beyond simulations on a mannequin. “I wanted the nursing students to know a lot more younger people are having them these days, and they don’t have to be terrible,” she said. “I’ve had people joke about it to me, not knowing that I have one, and I wasn’t brave enough to speak up and say it’s not that terrible. It’s taken this long to have gained the confidence and experience to know it’s OK to be up front about this.”

After serving as an anatomy lab assistant, Deckard has known some of the nursing students for a few years now, and she said no one had any idea that she has an ostomy until they saw the video. “It proved my point. You can easily come off as just an average everyday person. Beyond that, I think them getting first-hand information from one of their peers put a different perspective on it, it cued them in on how to possibly better approach it in the future, especially for younger patients that have these.”

Since the video was shared with Deckard’s fellow student, she was contacted by a person with a younger family member who was facing the possibility of having ileostomy surgery, too, and Deckard was able to reach out and talk to them, explain how it works, and how it’s nothing to be afraid of. “I feel like it’s already helped somebody,” Deckard shared.

Deckard is nearing the home stretch of nursing school, and she reflected on her journey in an interview. She grew up in rural Utah, and attended two years of college there, but wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to study. She took a nanny job and traveled around the country for about 15 years, met and married her husband in California, and the two decided they watned to move somewhere with a better quality of life. Fremont County, where Deckard had visited family over the years, seemed like the perfect fit. But going back to school, especially such a rigerous program after such a long hiatus, was no easy task. “Oh, it’s hard,” she shared. Initially, learning how much more digital everything is in college these days took a bit of extra work, and nursing school tends to take over your life. Deckard credits her husband for being so understanding, and helping make it possible for her to focus so intently on her studies. She’s missed family gatherings and events, but she knows the sacrifices will pay off. “A lot of things get put on the backburner,” Deckard explained. “But you know it’s temporary. It’s really hard, but we can do really hard things for two years and the reward will be worth it.”

Deckard said she’s incredibly grateful to Foster’s Outriders, which awarded her through its generous scholarship program and been supportive throughout her studies. She recommended that students interested in trade programs look into the organization, too.

The runner up for the Student of the Year honors is Jonas Calvert, an art and chemistry second-year student who also works as a tutor. Semi-finalists include Oliver Bartel and Marcus Moore; Michael Sturgill, Kamille Stahle, and Hadyn Collie were also nominated for the accolade.