By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Kay Carpenter knew she wanted to be a nurse at the early age of 3 after she was hospitalized and spent time with the nurses.
Now, the retired nurse and Boca Raton resident is paying it forward to the next generation of nurses through her newly created scholarship fund the Kay Carpenter Scholarship at Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing.
“The nurses were the nicest and kindest people I met,” she said. “I decided then that I wanted to be a nurse.”
After traveling with girlfriends throughout Europe after she graduated college from the University of Michigan, she did pursue her career goal. She settled on going to nursing school in Geneva, Switzerland.
Of course, she had to pass a language exam— so she learned French— and she was then accepted into nursing school.
She worked as a nurse and worked with the International Red Cross where she traveled to the Middle East with vaccinations. From there, she went on to receive her master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of Santa Clara in California. She also spent a chunk of her nursing career teaching continuing education and leading problem solving groups for nurses.
She retired in the early 2000s and decided to move to South Florida for a total change from the west coast.
She said she wanted to create the Kay Carpenter Scholarship to encourage young people to go into nursing.
“I realized that some young people have to drop out of training to support their families or support themselves,” she said.
So, to help keep the future nurses in school, she started the scholarship with $250,000.
The first 16 students have received the financial aid of the scholarship this past fall semester.
She said FAU’s nursing school was selected because it has a high number of graduates who pass the exams necessary to become a nurse the first time the test is administered.
Part of the scholarship program involves recipients proffering to pay up to 75 percent of the aid they received back to the fund after graduation to “pay it forward” to the next student who may need financial help.
Carpenter said she has met nearly all of the scholarship recipients and received letters and cards of thanks.
“Each recipient has a story,” she said. “Each story is interesting and moving. They are the future.”
One of those students is Shanice Clayton, a nursing student who received the scholarship.
“The scholarship has been a huge blessing,” she said.
She works full-time in addition to attending nursing school. She said the scholarship has enabled her to feel less stressed about finances.
She said she is following in the footsteps of her mother, who is a nurse.
“My mom is a huge inspiration,” she said. “She has been a nurse longer than I have been alive.”
And when she stepped foot into the hospital herself as a health practitioner she said she knew she was where she belonged.
“This is truly what I enjoy about serving other people,” she said. “To help people become better versions of themselves when it comes to their health.”