Paying it Forward

Marion County’s future nurses receive scholarships to help them pursue a career in our community.

Emma Baird has roots in Ocala. She was born and raised here. Now that she’s moving toward adulthood, she’s ready to give back to the community.

Baird, now in her second year at the College of Central Florida, is one of six students who qualified to receive the Angelica G. Muns Nursing Scholarship. Other recipients include: Timothy Quick, Ronald Oliver, Deanna McDaniel, Lovely Elein and Christasia King.

Baird is the first in her immediate family to pursue nursing. She credits her parents who, she says, have exemplified service for others. She expects to graduate in December and, like all scholarship recipients, will be required to work at least one year at a Marion County hospital. The Muns scholarhip, administered by the Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County, was born out of a local nurse’s drive to support those wanting to pursue a career in the field of nursing. A U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel and registered nurse who served during World War II, Muns and her husband felt compelled by their love of service and the excellent healthcare they received in Marion County to create a nursing scholarship. They wanted to provide opportunities for students planning to stay in Marion County and working at a Marion County acute healthcare facility to attend school to earn an RN or BSN degree. Each applicant must also be enrolled in a nursing program in Marion County and maintain a 3.0 GPA. A total of $2,000 is awarded to scholarship recipients in August and January of each year.

Baird, who has now applied and received the scholarship twice, plans to work for a year and a half at a local hospital. She said she’s eager to give back to the community that shaped her.

“Something as simple as helping someone brush their teeth or helping them get a bath— it really makes a big difference, especially if they’re not able to do it on their own,” Baird offers. “Those small things that you don’t think have a big impact really do. ”

Ronald Oliver, who also received the award, understands the importance of his career. Oliver, who was born in South Africa, moved to the United States, where, he says, he jumped from job to job. He’s done everything from working as a prison guard to delivering pizza. But his caring personality, a trait his friends recognized, prevailed and nursing became a natural outlet for his talents.

“I want to be a nurse to give myself to complete strangers, being kind and compassionate during what may be the most difficult times of their lives,” Oliver explains.

As a husband and father of two children, the Muns scholarship has been a blessing for him in a very meaningful way beyond professional advancement and a more financially rewarding career path.

“My children see me studying all the time,” he shares. “I believe this is instilling a love of learning in them and showing them that hard work will pay off.”

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