Donated photo. As a tribute to her mom who recently passed away while at Silver Bluff Village, Hooper has joined with Lisa Leatherwood, Silver Bluff administrator, to establish the Silver Bluff Nursing Hero Endowment at Haywood Community College’s Foundation. Pictured is the first recipient of the Silver Bluff Nursing Hero Endowment Sydney Smith. She is pictured with her acceptance letter into HCC’s nursing program.

“A nursing education has the power to change lives,” explains Dr. Vallire Hooper, Associate Dean for Research & Scholarship and Director of the Ph.D. Program at East Tennessee State University. “Not only the lives of the many patients and families that we encounter and care for, but the life of the individual obtaining the degree.”

As a second-generation nurse, Hooper knows this first hand in her own life but also in her daily work. Growing up with a divorced mom in the early 1960s, she knew that the majority of moms did not work outside of the home. “My firm belief is that we made it and I am where I am today because of the power of a nursing education,” she explains.

As a tribute to her mom who recently passed away while at Silver Bluff Village, Hooper has joined with Lisa Leatherwood, Silver Bluff administrator, to establish the Silver Bluff Nursing Hero Endowment at Haywood Community College’s Foundation. This endowment is set up specifically for students in HCC’s nursing program who are employed at Silver Bluff.

Leatherwood has also witnessed firsthand the impact an education in nursing has. As the third generation in her family to operate Silver Bluff and as a nurse herself, she knows the vital role nurses play every day. Her grandparents bought Silver Bluff in 1962 when it was called Pigeon Valley. Once her grandparents retired, Leatherwood’s parents took over the business. In 1998 when it was time for Leatherwood’s parents to retire, she and her husband took the helm.

Leatherwood had toyed with the idea of starting a scholarship in the past. “When Vallire mentioned starting it, it was the right time,” she explains. “We are so grateful to the Davis family for this scholarship opportunity for our staff. Long-term care nurses are so desperately needed and this will give our staff the opportunity to fill that need.”

Hooper’s idea is that the Silver Bluff Nursing Hero Endowment will make a nursing career attainable for all. “I am hopeful that this scholarship will be a lift for those trying so very hard to make it as a nurse in these difficult times.”

The first recipient of the Silver Bluff Nursing Hero Endowment is Sydney Smith who has worked at Silver Bluff for four years. The Bethel native strives to meet the needs of the residents as a Certified Nurse Aide. “I am very dedicated to providing the best care I possibly can for every resident I come in contact with,” she says. “I love helping those who need it most. Working at Silver Bluff and getting experience in the medical field made it very clear to me that nursing is the career for me.”

Leatherwood hopes this scholarship will encourage Silver Bluff employees to further their education. “It’s a hard leap to take financially. When employees decide to go back to school, we work with them on their schedules. If we can grow our own nurses, it would be great.”

For Hooper, she hopes this scholarship will provide opportunities and help the community. “My mom was a living example of what a nursing education can do for an individual and a family.” Thanks to her generosity, others can benefit from this scholarship and start their educational journey to a career that will impact many others in the future.

For more information about the Silver Bluff Nursing Hero Endowment or to give to the fund, please call Hylah Birenbaum at 828-627-4544, email hebirenbaum@haywood.edu or visit haywood.edu/foundation.