Caring for Oldfields students....and so many more!
By Erin Wallace
Director of Health Services Darla Carter joined the Oldfields community in early September and has navigated this year, one unlike any other, with patience and expertise. Darla is extremely passionate about her work on campus advocating and caring for our students and faculty, while off campus, advocating for accessibility through her own nonprofit. Sweet-natured (and with a sweet tooth) she makes our campus a safer and more resilient place.
Darla’s love for the children she worked with, along with her passion for equal access, led to her starting a nonprofit, Room 17, which advocates for accessible bathrooms for people with disabilities. In her role as the founder and Board President of Room 17, Darla has also spent the past two years networking with lawyers and congressmen, speaking at events, and has been a guest panelist for American Public Health Association in Washington, DC. While the pandemic has paused some of the work that she is doing, Darla has found a way to use her platform to advocate for safety measures in and around COVID-19 and get supplies to people and organizations who really need it.
Darla, known to our students as Ms. Carter, is adored by our students. In the girls’ words, “Ms. Carter helps us out so much at Oldfields and is definitely one of the nicest people I have ever met. She has such a kind soul.” “She notices when something isn’t right--even if we don’t say anything. She pays such close attention to each of us.” Oldfields is fortunate to have her taking care of our students each and every day.
Darla’s contributions to Oldfields extend far beyond the health center. In fact, her aunt, Jan Adams, President and CEO of JMA Solutions, will be a speaker at this year’s Graduation. JMA Solutions is a woman-owned, award-winning government consulting firm in Washington, DC. The story and the work of Ms. Adams is inspiring, and we have no doubt that Darla and her aunt share many qualities.
Originally from Ohio, Darla began pursuing a career in nursing when she graduated from high school. “I knew that I wanted to be either a nurse or a social worker.” Darla entered a practical nursing program at the age of 18 and later attended La Roche University in Pittsburgh, PA. “La Roche is a very small, private, Catholic school with a wonderful nursing program. I loved my experience there.” While in school, Darla began working in pediatric home care. She then transitioned to her first full-time job as an RN working in a long-term care facility for those with special needs. With a master's degree in nursing administration and leadership, Darla has managed residential programs, adult day programs, and psychiatric clinics.
It was during Darla’s time working at Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind in Pittsburgh that she began to dream about the next step for her as a nurse. During her time working for the school, she would take groups of children on field trips and realized that at so many of the places there wasn’t an accessible bathroom to provide personal care for the children. “If a child needed to use the restroom we would have to pack everyone up and drive back to school just to use the facilities at our school. By the time we had done all that there wasn’t time to go back and we’d end up missing most of the field trip.”
Darla is also a student herself. Studying to be a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, “I am passionate about increasing awareness and reducing the mental health stigma in African American children and the Black church.”
Where would this dedicated nurse spend a day off? The beach! “I didn’t go to the beach as a kid. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I took a trip to Florida and fell in love. The beach is therapy for me. I love to sit on the sand, wade in the water, and listen to the waves crashing.” Darla has plans to spend a week this summer with her entire family in California doing just that. We hope this trip is the perfect ending to her first year at Oldfields and thank her for all she does.
- Darla Carter
- Health Services
- Ms. Carter