Chasing Dreams at Northwest Iowa Community College: Marilyn’s Journey into Nursing

Northwest Iowa Community College (NCC), in Sheldon, Iowa, proudly supports the “Dare to Dream” program, a transformative initiative at RiverView Ridge Assisted Living in Rock Valley. This uplifting venture, led by RJ Heynen, the Community Relations Coordinator, is designed to fulfill the long-held dreams of its residents. Each month, the program selects at random the name of a participating resident, offering them a unique opportunity to realize a dream they may have set aside. Marilyn Vander Schaff, one of the fortunate participants, found herself embarking on an extraordinary journey into the realm of nursing—a passion she has nurtured since her younger years.

Marilyn, an individual with a rich life story of resilience and care, had always envisioned herself in the profession of nursing. Life’s circumstances, however, including the responsibilities of single-handedly raising four children, made the pursuit of this dream particularly challenging. Despite these obstacles, her commitment to caregiving never waned, as evidenced by her years of dedicated service as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Yet, the yearning to expand her skills and knowledge in nursing remained unfulfilled until the “Dare to Dream” program at RiverView Ridge paved the way for an incredible opportunity at NCC.

Vicki Schrock, NCC Health Care Simulation Coordinator, was thrilled to see Marilyn in the hallway the day she visited NCC. “Marilyn is one of those remarkable individuals who took care of my sister, Wendy, at River Valley School. The moment I saw her, all those memories came flooding back, reminding me of the blessing she was to my sister years ago. It was a joy to walk alongside her as she pursued her dream,” she said.

The healthcare programs at NCC are a center of innovation and excellence, embodying the latest in medical simulation technology. Marilyn’s visit to NCC proved to be a truly enlightening experience. She was welcomed with open arms into the college’s nursing program classroom lecture and the healthcare simulation center, an advanced facility equipped with high-fidelity manikins. These manikins, remarkable in their ability to mimic human bodily functions, offered Marilyn a glimpse into the cutting-edge educational experiences provided to NCC’s current healthcare students. From observing a heart code simulation involving Nursing and Radiologic Technology students to participating in class discussions, Marilyn’s engagement with the college’s healthcare program was deeply enriching.

Marilyn’s adventure at NCC was a poignant reminder of the transformative power of education and the importance of community support in helping individuals realize their dreams. Her heartfelt gratitude towards the staff and students at NCC, who made her feel welcomed and valued, underscores the impact of such initiatives.

“My students were so excited to have Marilyn be an honorary NCC nursing student for the day, because it truly showed how RiverView Ridge cares for their residents holistically. We are so grateful that RiverView Ridge reached out to us at NCC to fulfill her ‘Dare to Dream’ wish. It was a reminder to our students that it is never too late to pursue your dreams!” said Nancy Popkes, NCC Nursing instructor.

Northwest Iowa Community College’s healthcare programs, enriched by state-of-the-art simulation technology and a compassionate approach to education, are not just shaping the future of healthcare professionals; they are also reigniting the passions and dreams of individuals like Marilyn. It’s a testament to the belief that it’s never too late to pursue one’s dreams, especially when there’s a community ready to support and uplift you along the way.

“Dare to Dream” is more than just a program; it’s a beacon of hope, encouraging all to dream big and never stop reaching for those dreams. Marilyn Vander Schaff’s experience is a vivid illustration of this message, inspiring current and future students of NCC to pursue their passions with fervor and determination. As we celebrate Marilyn’s journey, we are reminded of the boundless possibilities that await when dreams are nurtured and supported.

Thank you for living out your dream at NCC, Marilyn!!!

For further details on NCC’s comprehensive healthcare programs, reach out to the admissions team via email at, or by phone at 712-324-5061. Explore more about NCC by visiting our website at Can’t visit us in person? No problem. Embark on a virtual tour of NCC’s Health Sciences Building, where you’ll get an inside look at our state-of-the-art labs and simulation center, by visiting

More about the simulation experience at NCC: The healthcare simulation center at NCC stands out for its use of these high-fidelity manikins, which breathe, blink, exhibit chest movements, and even replicate heart, lung, and bowel sounds. The level of realism they offer is unparalleled, allowing students to hone their clinical decision-making, critical thinking, and practical skills in a risk-free environment. This immersive learning experience, which includes a manikin capable of simulating childbirth, showcases NCC’s commitment to preparing its students for the complexities of patient care.


nursing class            Marylin

marylin and sim baby             Marylin and Vikki