The letter was sent informally — technically a message, sent via Facebook from a former student to a professor.

It meant the world to its recipient, who cried when she read it.

“Hi Amy,” it began. “I was just thinking back recently to my 16 years of education and found myself thinking to a time when I was at my lowest point…”

That lowest point was when the letter writer, Erin Zilliox, became a new mother. She had just started nursing school.

“My personal life was in shambles and my education is in question…” she wrote.

She began coursework in the Irene Ransom Bradley School of Nursing in January 2013. An unplanned pregnancy nearly derailed her. But Zilliox was never short of support from her fellow students, faculty, and staff.

They even helped watch her baby when she took tests.

“It’s a family environment here, and my classmates became like siblings to me,” she said.

Still, it was a struggle. Zilliox recalled sitting in tears at a conference table with professors in McPherson Hall, talking about her future — not just as a nurse but as a mother and a person. She was considering dropping out.

Her professor, Amy Hite, wouldn’t let her.

“I’ll never forget…you turned to me and told me I could do this, we could do this,” Zilliox wrote in her message to Hite last fall. “You sat with your calculator and figured up the exact number of points I needed to pass your class. You knew it would be hard, and probably even had your doubts…but you didn’t give up on me.”

Struggling for two years to get through school, Hite told her, would mean the difference between a minimum wage job the rest of her life and a career for herself and her daughter.

Hite said that’s how she approaches all students — not as a number, but with a name and goals.

“They each are important,”

Hite said. “As faculty, our job is to educate them but more importantly to support, inspire, and encourage them along their academic journey. Sometimes we need to give them hope, especially when they lose perspective or have given up on themselves.”

Hite said it’s important for faculty to make connections with their students to understand the challenges they face in addition to school.

“When students know that we care about them, they will work a little harder and strive to make us proud of their accomplishments,” she said.

“I’ll never forget…you turned to me and told me I could do this, we could do this.”

Today, Zilliox and her daughter, Jaelyn, have their own apartment in Lenexa, Kansas. She is employed by Truman Medical Center in downtown Kansas City, where she works in the Emergency Department as a registered nurse.

“I could have cried more and quit that day. I now support my daughter on my own, with health insurance and all, and I don’t have any one person to thank more than you,” she wrote to Hite. “So, with all of this being said, thank you for all that you have done and currently do. Simple moments to you might be life changing for a scared college student.”