In the face of loss, a nursing scholarship honors the life of a special individual.
The journey that led me to become a student at Texas A&M University’s College of Nursing began with the worst day of my life. On Nov. 18, 2010, my older sister and best friend, Theresa, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer. This devastating news threw my world into chaos and left me feeling isolated. Talking to my parents about my struggle was out of the question, because I didn’t want to add to their heavy burden. As a freshman in high school, the sadness was more than I could bear, and I initially withdrew from Theresa, afraid to face the truth and talk about her illness.
Throughout the difficult cancer treatments and surgeries, the nurses at Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston showed Theresa love and support as they worked to save her life. They listened, engaged her in conversation and kept her as comfortable as possible. The night of my sister’s prom, the nurses even bought her makeup, sacrificing their time and money to ensure she had an amazing experience. They embraced our entire family and helped us navigate our fear, uncertainty and grief.
On May 7, 2012, when Theresa passed away, I knew that I wanted to honor her memory by emulating the nurses who cared for her. Their professionalism, emotional support and compassion motivated me. If I can make that kind of difference in the life of just one patient, it will fill my own life and work with meaning.
I was inspired to become an Aggie by classmates and teachers at my high school, St. Michael’s Catholic Academy in Austin. During Theresa’s illness, they supported our family by organizing fundraising events to help with medical bills. When she was in the hospital, the entire school dressed in purple, her favorite color, and held a sign outside of the school that said, “We love you, Theresa,” and sent a photo to our family. In so many ways, they tried to lighten our load. It left such a strong impression on me that I knew I wanted to find a close-knit community at college. It only took one campus visit to confirm that Texas A&M had the type of caring and supportive environment I sought.
In the nursing program, we attend class year-round for two years, including summers. When I’m not in class or clinicals, I spend my free time studying or working with Fish Camp and Aggie Belles, a women’s leadership and service organization. I wouldn’t trade any of it, but the passion and time commitment required for all of these activities can be overwhelming.
In addition to selecting the right program, it was incredibly important to me to find an affordable path. I have five younger siblings who will attend college in the future. Saving enough money to cover tuition and fees for six children is a huge challenge for my parents, but the rigors of the nursing curriculum leave little time for me to earn money for living expenses.
When I was awarded the Erle and Alice Nye Endowed Scholarship in 2016, a weight lifted from my shoulders. This scholarship helps me financially, and it is encouraging to have someone invest in my education and future nursing career. My family and I are beyond thankful for the Nyes' generosity, which will benefit nursing students and their patients for generations to come.
Although I still have time left in my college journey, I feel in some ways that it has already come full circle. But what makes my heart most content is knowing that Theresa would be proud that I chose this path—a path that honors her life.
The Texas A&M College of Nursing was named a National League of Nursing Center of Excellence in 2016. Established in 2008, the college has graduated 646 highly qualified nurses but is still in its infancy in building endowments to support nursing student scholarships. For some students, a scholarship makes the difference in whether or not they can achieve their dream by earning a nursing degree.
Gifts to the College of Nursing can help solve the critical statewide nursing shortage through funding scholarships, programs or faculty recruitment and retention initiatives.