I have been collecting letters of reference and crafting my scholarship application. Below is the essay I wrote to describe my career and education goals, work experience, community involvement, and current predicament. If you're new to this blog, I hope it's a good way to catch up.
In the late nineteen-eighties, there was no college requirement to become a police officer. I was drawn to public service, and so gave up my job pumping aviation fuel at the local municipal airport and went to work protecting and serving for our county Sheriff. That our security was directly dependent on our physical mobility was a fact most of my peers avoided considering. The truth was that without any post-secondary education or training outside our specific field, should any one of us lose a trigger finger or the ability to jump and run, we would be up a very narrow financial creek without a proverbial paddle. Twenty-five years later, only as I have come to the end of that particular creek have I ventured out into greater waters, frantically scrambling for headway with my police pension serving as makeshift oars as I have returned to college pursuing a nursing degree.
When the idea of switching professions was new, I discovered I was entering a field that was undergoing drastic changes. The American medical field rumbled from Presidential mandates and newly enacted laws that shook many doctors into retirement or relocation and shifted emphasis toward nurses. Nursing was responding to changes with advancing education requirements. Associate degreed registered nurses with decades of experience were expected to quickly advance to Baccalaureate degrees. I knew I needed a bachelor’s degree in nursing in order to serve in this changing climate.
At the same time, I was confronted with a grievous need on the other side of the globe. While westerners gulp seven-dollar espressos and drive luxury sport sedans, our brothers and sisters in the East walk six miles a day to heft barrels of filthy water onto their heads and shoulders to present it as the only means of hydration and sanitation for their families, many of whom die from preventable diseases such as malaria and diarrhea. The reality of this inequity weighed on my heart, and my wife and I began to consider serving as missionaries. As our love for the hurting would not be silenced in our hearts, we committed to move to Uganda to serve where an estimated 2.6 million children are orphaned by war and disease.
Just after I retired my gun and badge, my bride and I set out to meet the land and people to which we had devoted our futures – Uganda. We introduced ourselves to over a dozen missionaries from nearly as many different missions as we made a circuit around the country. We discovered a people eager to smile, content with their labor, and dependent on a beautiful land filled with want, disease, corruption, and difficulty. Twice we found ourselves in police stations where a newly abandoned child needed attention. The desperation for food, water, and clothing outweighs the human connection of family, and the stigma of AIDS still looms like a death sentence on this uneducated population, thrusting need into despair. The Lemmons fell in love with Uganda, their some-day home.
Our lofty plans and higher ideals screeched and burned like landing gear tread on the runway as our feet again touched U.S. soil. Our burden now is bridging from here to there, building a retired police officer into a useful missionary nurse. The first step is education. I need a degree. The obstacle is finances. A police pension and a wife’s wage keep the roof patched and the lights on, but tuition, books, uniforms, skills kits, and testing all takes money our budget does not allow. The demand for excellence precludes working while in school unless absolutely necessary, and so I am compelled to petition for scholarships, loans, and external support.
My extra-curricular involvement centers around my church, as I am a section leader in the church choir, serve in the nursery, and enjoy contributing to children’s and youth events several times throughout the year. I was recently inducted into the Emmaus community, a religious organization outside my church. At school, I have involved myself in the ASL (American Sign Language) Club and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. I have supported my peers by forming a study group to which as many as five Anatomy and Physiology students have flocked, several of which have become great friends which I mentor even now. I look forward not only to what I will receive from applying myself to my scholastic endeavors, but to what I can leave in the relationships I make on the way. Every one of us is on a mission field of sorts, sharing what we are with those we contact. I may have a grand destination, but the journey itself is the mission at hand.