For over 20 years, the Touchstone Foundation has awarded scholarships to hundreds of nursing students to develop the nursing workforce in Lancaster County. Since 2014, we have awarded scholarships to nursing students who demonstrate an interest in youth mental health. In 2022, we expanded our focus to mental health careers, to support students studying psychology, psychiatry, social work, and education. We’ll continue supporting nurses in advanced degree programs who are specializing in youth mental health.
Although we are shifting to mental health careers, we wanted to highlight a past recipient of the nursing scholarship and their story. Rita George was a 2020 Recipient of the nurse scholarship and has been pursuing her Registered Nurse Licensure.
Q: How has the Touchstone Foundation helped you with your career?
Prioritizing my time being a single mother (and a mom to 3 rescue dogs!), a nursing student, and an employee was a juggling act, and at times I felt like I would be neglecting one for the other. With the assistance of the Touchstone Foundation, I was able to relax a little knowing that they were financially participating in my education. For me as a single mother, the burden and anxiety of paying for tuition weighed heavily on my mind. The Touchstone Foundation was able to ease that burden. I felt as though the organization ‘had my back’ from the get-go. Shanece was always prompt in answering my emails and returning my phone calls when I had any questions. Even in the initial interview before being awarded the scholarship the ladies made me feel comfortable and lifted me up. I vividly remember feeling confident when the interview ended, and it was due to the feedback I received from them.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career as a nurse?
My passion for nursing has an atypical start. I was taking a Zumba class at a local hospital when I briefly lived in West Virginia. I was surrounded by dancing nurses who spoke so highly of their chosen profession and absolutely loved going to work. They learned something new every day. They made people smile. They were challenged (mentally, physically and emotionally). They were advocators. They were making a difference. It was everything I wanted in a profession all rolled up in one but hadn’t figured it out yet.
Everything was put on pause when I had my two children. I was fortunate enough to have the ability to be a stay-at-home mom, but the tradeoff was living in an abusive relationship. I made the decision to make a better life for me, my children and my dogs. I moved back home, to Lancaster County, and immediately began the application process for nursing school. So not only was I striving to learn new things, make people smile, be challenged, be an advocate and make a difference I was also going to be self-sufficient for myself and my family.
Q: What is some advice you would give to other people looking to pursue a career in nursing?
Nursing school was not easy, the opposite thing you could ever think of as being easy. Late nights studying after I put my children to bed, waking up at 4:30am to make it to clinical on time, doubting if I was really cut out to be a nurse, literally letting clean laundry pile up for three weeks because other things had to get done first, the anxiety of testing on an RN grading scale and to top it all off, we went on spring break in March of 2020 (our first semester) and never went back to the classroom because of a worldwide pandemic. But it is doable.
Becoming a nurse takes determination and perseverance. You need the ability to ask for help. The most influential thing that got me through school was leaning on my peers and them leaning on me. You become close with your cohort as you are all going through the same struggles and have the same questions. You remind each other of due dates and what paperwork needs to be taken to which clinical site and create ways to remember the side effects of beta blockers and ACE inhibitors. If it hadn’t been for my classmates, I would not have made it. In other words, ask for help and be willing to help. Kind of like the way I asked the Touchstone Foundation for help, and they helped me.
Scholarship applications are open each year through May 15. Our scholarship committee will evaluate applications during the next month. In early July, our top applicants are invited for an interview. The committee then decides on awards, with consideration of our available funds, applicant need, and potential impact on services to youth and children in Lancaster County.