The road less traveled to respiratory care

Student Brandon Willems didn’t know his career path was attainable until he found his way at Seminole State.

Monday, October 23, 2023
Written by: Laura E. Richeson, APR

If you spend just a few moments with Brandon Willems, you can feel his passion and excitement for learning and embracing a career path that he didn’t know was attainable until he found his road less traveled at Seminole State College of Florida.

In the 1990s, Brandon attended high school in Fort Pierce, Florida. He barely remembers the school’s name and uses the term ‘attended’ loosely. Self-admittingly, he was not positioned for success and had little motivation or support. At the recommendation of a family member, Brandon dropped out of the 9th grade and applied for an entry-level job in the construction industry. He worked hard, traveled, and self-taught skills of the trade. However, he was feeling the proverbial glass ceiling without formal education and training. It was becoming very clear that this pathway was not fulfilling and long-term advancement was limited. 

“When life felt out of control, I knew the one thing I could control was my health and wellness,” recalls Brandon. After a decade of various construction jobs, he pivoted to launch a career in martial arts and personal training in the hot spot of South Beach, Miami. He gained clients, opened a business, and was successful, yet still felt the doors of growth and opportunity closing around him without a high school diploma, let alone a higher education degree.

Following a move to Central Florida, Brandon decided to pursue a GED and explore additional options – if only an institution was willing and able to provide a pathway for a non-traditional student.

“I walked into Seminole State Enrollment Services with very low expectations and left the appointment filled with determination, a clear pathway to begin Adult Education courses, and genuine support that I did not even dream was available at my age and without my high school diploma,” he continues.

Seminole State student Brandon Willems stands at a podium while speaking to an audience at the College's 2023 Collegewide Convocation on Sept. 26.
Brandon Willems shared his experience at
Seminole State and his plans for a career in
respiratory care with employees at the College's
2023 Collegewide Convocation on Sept. 26.

In 2018, Brandon started his higher education career at Seminole State with all the tools, resources, and mentoring needed to achieve a GED, followed by enrollment into the Respiratory Care Program that leads to an Associate in Science (A.S.) degree. This was a life-changing moment for Brandon. 

With the birth of his daughter in 2019, Brandon was concerned that his education journey may need to pause while balancing family life. Yet through a close working relationship with his professors, led by program manager Dr. Jaime Magnetico-Walsh, R.R.T., R.R.T.-N.P.S., R.R.T.-A.C.C.S.,  academic advisors, and wraparound student services, Brandon did not miss a beat in his coursework and progress.  

Today, Brandon is advancing his fundamental passion for health care and is in his fourth term of the Respiratory Care Program including clinicals at AdventHealth Orlando for out-of-classroom, hands-on experience.  

“Getting to know future colleagues, working alongside peers to problem-solve care plans, applying textbook knowledge is my favorite part of the learning process,” he continues.

Brandon is nearing graduation from the Respiratory Care Program in Spring 2024. His sights are set on taking the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC) licensing exam and pursuing a career at AdventHealth Orlando in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

When asked what advice he would give his younger self, Brandon reflects that one must simply “hang in there and put in the work – it will work out for you with self-pride and determination.”

“I now feel confident, fulfilled, and happy with my career and stage of life. I want my daughter to see me in scrubs doing what I love, rather than facing closed doors,” he concludes.

Respiratory Care

If you are interested in an exciting health profession, Seminole State College's Respiratory Care Program may be for you. Respiratory care practitioners provide prescribed care and life support to patients with cardiopulmonary problems by:

  • Administering medical gases, aerosolized drugs, and bronchial hygiene therapy
  • Inserting and maintaining artificial airways
  • Overseeing the management of critically ill patients who require artificial life support

More than 80 percent of respiratory care practitioners work in hospitals, where they care for patients in medical and surgical wards; emergency departments; and neonatal, adult, and pediatric intensive care units. Respiratory therapists also provide care in rehabilitative centers, physician offices, and patients' homes.

Respiratory Care Info Sessions

Interested in Seminole State's respiratory care degree? Attend a session and learn about our program.

About Seminole State College of Florida

Seminole State College of Florida, established in 1965, serves more than 24,000 students across six sites in Central Florida. A full-service education provider, Seminole State has thrived by adapting to and meeting the needs of an ever-changing, vibrant community. Seminole State offers 11 bachelor’s degrees in high-demand, high-growth fields; two-year associate degrees; specialized certificates; continuing professional education; adult education and guaranteed admission via DirectConnect to UCF® to the University of Central Florida for Associate in Arts (A.A.) graduates. By offering flexible, affordable, high-quality educational programs and services, the College continues to help students learn, succeed and GO Far. For more about Seminole State, visit

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