A new scholarship has been set up to support and encourage Trident Technical College nursing students pursuing a career working inside jails and correctional facilities.
The goal is to increase awareness of career opportunities in correctional and forensic nursing and improve health care for incarcerated prisoners.
Sheppard, who is now a motivational speaker, is using a portion of her fees from speaking engagements to fund The Polly Daniels Sheppard Foundation. Through the foundation, she will provide $1,000-a-year scholarships given with preference to nursing students with an interest in correctional and forensic nursing. Donations also are being accepted for the scholarship.
As an endowed scholarship fund, award amounts are expected to grow each year.
“We have several scholarships focused on nursing, but this is the first one that’s been focused on a particular career track within nursing,” said Keith Rumrill, director of development with Trident Technical College. “In the summer of 2020, we had our first meeting about this idea. It was Mrs. Sheppard’s idea because that was her career before she retired, and she had worked in jail settings and knew there was a need.”
The first scholarship was awarded last semester to Nikki Walker, who graduated in December. Rumrill expects to award the scholarship to a student each fall.
Scholarship money can go toward tuition and associated costs with getting the degree, including buying uniforms and paying for licensing exams, Rumrill said.
The S.C. Department of Corrections lists several openings for nursing positions at correctional facilities across the state. The SCDC is offering a $10,000 sign-on bonus incentive for registered nursing positions, a possible indication that positions are hard to fill.
Current nursing openings at correctional facilities across the state include a certified nursing assistant with a salary of $30,873 annually; a licensed practical nurse with a salary range of $43,000-$43,928 annually; a registered nurse with a salary range of $66,502-$67,910 annually and a nurse administrator/manager with a salary of $83,000 annually.
Trident Technical College doesn’t offer a nursing program or classes specifically for working in a correctional institution, and students interested in The Polly Daniels Sheppard Foundation scholarship should indicate they want to enter that field, Rumrill said.
Rumrill said students may have to write an essay about their interest in the specialty. There are approximately 550 nursing students enrolled at Trident Technical College.
“Before (Nikki Walker) even knew about this scholarship, she had been talking to one of her nursing instructors and expressed this interest, which is how we were able to find someone that was a good match for the first award,” Rumrill said. “The vast majority of students at Trident Tech do receive some form of financial aid and there’s always the need for additional scholarships, which are very much appreciated.”