When Rachael Beard was a little girl, she remembers following her mother, a nurse practitioner, around on her rounds at Cox Hospital in Springfield, Mo. and dreaming of being just like her one day.
“I’ve dreamed of being a nurse since I was five years old,” she said. “I can remember my mom teaching me how to take a blood pressure when I was in the fourth grade. I would come to the hospital after school and stay with my mom until she was done working.
“Nursing is all I’ve ever known.”
Beard recently took a giant step toward realizing her dream … and, she did so in style. On May 10, she walked across the stage at the Independence Events Center with more than 300 of her Avila University classmates and received her bachelor of science in nursing. Before that, however, she delivered a stirring commencement address as Avila’s 2014 Ariston Award honoree as top student in her graduating class.
The name of the Ariston Award comes from the Greek philosopher Aristotle and has been awarded to senior undergraduates at Avila since 1953. Seniors are nominated by faculty, staff and other students for consideration for the Who's Who Among Students in American Universities Award. Those nominees then apply for the Ariston, applications are reviewed by a committee, and candidates are interviewed by a panel of administrators, staff and faculty.
Not a bad end for a college career at Avila that almost didn’t begin. She originally decided to remain close to home and attend College of the Ozarks and remembers feeling shattered the day she received a letter from the college letting her know she was not accepted. That same day, however, she also received an invitation to visit Avila.
“God had a plan,” she said. “My dad wasn’t too crazy about the idea at first, because he didn’t like the idea of his little girl being three hours away. But, when I arrived on campus, I fell in love with the atmosphere, the people and the nursing program.”
Beard already is on track for her first full-time job as a nurse. She has an internship at Cox, where she’ll work on the neurology trauma floor. She’ll serve a 16-week internship and, upon its completion, will start full-time.
Beard said Cox will get a different person working for them than the shy, introverted young girl she was four years ago.
“I graduated high school with a class of 69 students, and we all knew one another,” she said. “I was not invited to parties, and I was not a so-called popular person. I played volleyball, and that was about it. At Avila, I was involved in Campus Ministry, I was a mentor the first years, Avila Student Nursing Organization, Psych Club (she minored in psychology), and I actively attended sporting and theater events on campus.
“I put myself out there and now have friends from every background here. My senior year, I was nominated for homecoming queen. I can honestly say I did a ‘180’ and am now the person I was meant to be.
“I can’t imagine where I would be right now if I hadn’t attended Avila. In fact, I don’t want to think about it, because that would mean I would have never met so many amazing people that I plan to always keep in my life.” AU
Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434