Orphaned teenager finds a home in Idaho through nursing programs

Priscilla Raburn

POCATELLO Idaho State University nursing student Priscilla Raburn arrived in the dead of winter wearing just a tank top, shorts and flip flops.

Snow was unfamiliar. Mountain was an idea gleaned from movies. The United States was a foreign country. And she knew nothing about Idaho.

“I wasn’t going to be a statistic,” said Raburn.

After six years in the foster care system, 18-year-old Raburn left St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands for Pocatello. Relocating to Idaho was her friend’s idea. But it was an outlandish idea that reshaped the direction of her life in ways she could only dream of — financial stability, marriage, children and the family she never had.

“I wanted to grow and learn and not be a statistic in the foster care system,” she remembered.

Raburn is one of eight children who was taken away from their mother by the Division of Children and Family Services. She hasn’t seen her mother since that day. Her siblings found homes but she entered the foster care system, which led to an organization called Support our Sisters.

“I met a friend who was in the program and she was from Blackfoot,” Raburn said. “I wanted to leave the island as soon as possible.”

It took her a couple of years, but she finished her GED and then obtained certification as a certified nursing assistant from ISU, her profession for the past 12 years.

“I thought I would be a failure like my mom,” she said. 

That academic momentum led Raburn to ISU’s practical nursing degree within the College of Technology. She will graduate in July. The yearlong program is designed to prepare graduates to take the practical nurse licensing exam and establish a career as a licensed practical nurse.

Priscilla Raburn, who was orphaned at the age of 12, came to Idaho nearly 20 years ago from the Virgin Islands. Nursing programs at Idaho State University helped her reach financial and family stability.

“I learned that I am actually smart and capable of being a registered nurse,” she said.

Now 37, Raburn has two children with her husband, Korey. And they are in the process of taking legal guardianship of two young cousins.

Because she wants to be available for her children, she’s taking baby steps toward her ultimate goal of becoming a registered nurse.

“With this program as a stepping stone, I know that I can do it,” she said. “I gained that feeling through my husband and my instructors at school.”

All those years ago, her main objective was to get off the island and improve herself — mission accomplished. But she hasn’t seen a beach in nearly 20 years, and she misses the sand and ocean.

“I really do,” she said.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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