Laurel Ridge student Loretta Reilly is thrilled to have been selected by the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education for the 2020-2021 Valley Proteins Fellowship.
As a fellow, Reilly will receive full tuition, participate in community involvement and leadership development activities, and receive mentoring.
This is the 10th year that Winchester-based Valley Proteins has funded the fellowship program for extraordinary second-year students attending any of Virginia’s 23 community colleges. Requirements include a commitment to transfer to a four-year university, and a 3.5 or higher grade-point average.
“It’s just like one huge step forward in my life, it’s going to take me a long way,” said Reilly, who is from Nigeria, where she didn’t receive many educational opportunities.
The Winchester resident came to the U.S. in late 2015.
“When I came to America, I was looking into doing something,” she said. “I wanted to make a difference and be there for people who are really in need.”
Reilly worked in a nursing home for a couple of years.
“When I worked there, it took the best part of me and made me develop more interest,” said Reilly, who currently works as a certified nursing assistant in the emergency department at Winchester Medical Center.
She said she has had further training and is getting more experience, including caring for patients with coronavirus. Caring for those with such a contagious disease doesn’t frighten her.
“I was just blessed to be one of the people who was able to help,” she said.
Reilly loves her job.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “While people are in their desperate moments, feeling like there’s no hope, you’re there to hold their hand and sometimes put a smile on their face.
“I love every part of nursing.”
Besides working in the emergency department and with patients requiring physical rehabilitation, Reilly is looking forward to working on surgical cases, mother-and-baby care and more.
“I want to know it all,” she explained. “I want to have all of the experiences so I can know where I do belong. I want to be where they really need me.”
Reilly hopes to enroll in Laurel Ridge’s registered nursing program in fall 2021. She plans to take prerequisite courses for the next year. In fact, she has already taken math and biology classes this summer.
She came to the college last year to enroll in ESL classes.
“Coming to Laurel Ridge, and taking those ESL classes actually taught me a lot and gave me the confidence that I never thought I would have,” Reilly said. “Looking at my life today, I feel this is amazing. There’s always a chance if you try. I’m privileged to be at Laurel Ridge. It’s given me that amazing opportunity to bless my life with something I never thought I could get.”
All Laurel Ridge students receive emails encouraging them to apply for a multitude of scholarships through one quick application. After she did the application, Reilly was contacted for some follow-up information, including a letter of recommendation from Laurel Ridge President Kim Blosser.
“I had been worried about paying for school and books and everything that’s needed for class when I received an email from Laurel Ridge saying I could apply for scholarships,” Reilly recalled. “I said, let me just give it a shot. Being accepted into this fellowship is just like one huge step forward in my life.
“People say the sky’s the limit. I want to go beyond that.”
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.