Each year the William G. & Ruth T. Evans Endowed Nursing Scholarship is awarded to local nursing students who intend to work in the Rogue Valley after graduation.
Last fall, the selection committee received applications from qualified nursing students enrolled at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) Ashland Campus and Rogue Community College (RCC). 18 scholarships were awarded including one to Arika Ledesma, a young woman with an inspiring story and a determination to balance the demands of motherhood, family, work, and school on her path to becoming a registered nurse.
Born and raised in the Rogue Valley by a single mom, Arika and her sisters learned early on that life wasn’t easy, watching their mom struggle to make ends meet while their Dad battled addiction and remained incarcerated for much of their childhood. When Arika became pregnant at the age of 18, she enrolled as a student at Rogue Community College, determined to create a better life for her child. A premature delivery at 34 weeks gave Arika an up close and personal experience with the expert care given by Labor & Delivery nurses at a local hospital. “The care I received 9 years ago when my daughter was born was the reason I decided to become a nurse,” says Arika. “They were amazing and made me feel at ease despite the terrifying circumstances. There is no question she is alive today thanks to their expert care.”
Now with three children ages 9, 5, and 3 and a disabled husband, Arika provides for her family by working full-time as an LPN while completing her studies. “This scholarship has helped me tremendously,” beams Arika. “The road has not been easy, but my kids are all the motivation I need. They’ve witnessed the hard work, dedication, and commitment I’ve had to reach my goals. I can’t wait to give back as a Labor & Delivery nurse to make a better life for my family and my community.” Arika graduated in June and plans to seek a labor and delivery RN position at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center.
Inspirational nursing students like Arika are the reason Ruth Evans started the Evans Endowed Nursing Scholarship in 2002. Ruth served as an RN in the Army and eventually moved to Ashland with her husband Dr. William G. Evans in 1998. Mrs. Evans established the endowment fund after William’s death in honor of their shared dedication to community health care. When she died in 2013, Ruth’s $2.5 million bequest was the largest contribution Ashland Community Health Foundation has received in its 44-year history, significantly increasing the capacity of the Evans nursing scholarship.
Each year the scholarship selection committee receives applications from qualified students for the highly competitive scholarship. Last year the committee was pleased to award $125,000 in scholarships, the largest amount ever granted since the inception of the scholarship program. Margie Lininger is the chair of the selection committee and has helped choose candidates since she joined the committee in 2007. “Ruth was a gracious woman,” reflects Margie. “She was committed to helping nursing students who are as dedicated to health care as she and her husband always were. Her vision was to seek out the very best possible students, paving an easier path to success for those interested in practicing locally after graduation. And when you hear stories like Arika’s, you immediately understand the impact of the Evans’ dedication.”