To help finance her education at University of South Carolina Beaufort, nursing student Taneika Miller worked five days a week for a medical transport company. Juggling classes, study time and a full-time job proved to be a challenge.
"I'm paying for my tuition and books on my own," said the 30-year-old Bluffton resident. "It was difficult riding the ambulance after a full day of classes, but it's the only way I could afford going to college."
Now in her third year of studies, Miller has been able to reduce the hours she needs to work thanks to a $9,000 scholarship she received from Beaufort Memorial Hospital.
"It's been a huge help," said Miller, who is working two to three days a week as an emergency room technician at Savannah Memorial Hospital, while doing a pediatric clinical practicum at Beaufort Jasper Comprehensive Health Services in Port Royal as part of her nursing program. "I have more time to study."
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Recognizing a need in the community for health care professionals, the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation established a scholarship program with proceeds raised from its 2006 Valentine's Day Ball fundraiser.
"We offer scholarships to students pursuing careers in fields where there is a shortage of professionals," said Beaufort Memorial Human Resources Manager Chris Watson.
This year, the Baccalaureate Scholarship is available to students pursuing degrees in nursing, medical technology, physical therapy and occupational therapy. The winner will receive $5,000 the first year, $4,000 the second, $3,500 the third and $2,500 the fourth year of their studies for a total of $15,000.
The Associate Degree Scholarship is for students studying to become a radiologic technician, physical therapy assistant or medical laboratory technician. The winner of this scholarship will be awarded $2,000 the first year and $1,000 the second.
To qualify, applicants must be residents of Beaufort County, have been accepted into an accredited program and have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 in high school or college. They also are required to write a 500-word essay on why they have chosen their career in health care. A committee made up of foundation staff members and hospital senior management interviews the top candidates and makes the final selection.
With tuition continuing to rise at state colleges and universities, more students like Miller are relying on scholarships from private companies and nonprofit organizations to help pay for their education.
Brittany Mahomes, who is seeking an associate degree in Radiologic Technology at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, has been able to cover her tuition with a Pell Grant. But the mother of a 2-year-old doesn't have the money to pay for any extras.
"There are a lot of associated fees with the program that I never expected," said the 21-year-old Beaufort resident. "As part of my studies, I'm assigned to work at area hospitals. I had to drive to Walterboro three days a week for five weeks. Now I'm driving to Savannah. That's a lot of commuting. I've also had to pay for the required drug testing."
She's used the $1,500 she received from Beaufort Memorial last spring to pay those school-related costs.
"I was really excited when they awarded me the money," Mahomes said. "I'm putting myself through school, so it's been very helpful."
Health care students interested in applying for the Beaufort Memorial scholarships should email Chris Watson at email@example.com. The deadline for the application is May 1.