Laurel Ridge Fauquier Campus student Sydnei Eachus was inspired to pursue a career in surgical technology while serving as a campus ambassador. Now, she’s getting ready to pursue nursing school.
The 2017 Rappahannock County High School graduate enrolled at Laurel Ridge in the fall of 2018.
She originally intended to become a history teacher, but lacked the funds that would be necessary to transfer to a four-year university after obtaining her associate degree.
“I knew I had to choose a career I could enter straight from community college,” Eachus said. “I was in foster care when I turned 15 and I essentially aged out.”
Her experience in the Laurel Ridge Ambassadors program ended up inspiring her to enroll in the surgical technology program. While leading a group of eighth-graders visiting the Fauquier Campus for a visit, Eachus noticed the program during a career exploration presentation.
“I’m a Type 1 diabetic, so I have been exposed to the medical field since I was little,” she said.
In fall 2019, Eachus enrolled in the surgical technology program offered at the Vint Hill site.
“I loved it,” she enthused. “My instructor, Lisa Day, is an amazing teacher, and I really enjoyed the clinical and hands-on parts of the course. It’s hard to believe how soon I was able to help out with surgeries.”
She said she has benefited from several scholarships while at Laurel Ridge: the Kummli Family Endowed Scholarship, the Neall Family Charitable Foundation Scholarship and the Wise Foundation Scholarship.
“I have been on my own since I was 18, so any scholarship I have received has helped me out so much,” said Eachus.
Additionally, she has received help from the Path to Success program, which provides extra support to students who are first-generation college students, have income constraints or need extra developmental support prior to beginning college-level coursework.
Students in the program have access to a special study area with computers, a textbook library and hotspots, and qualify for certain scholarships and emergency grants. The program was started with funding from the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education’s Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative (RVHI) and a matching grant from the PATH Foundation.
The RVHI refers to the shape that would be formed if a line was drawn from the Eastern Shore west through Southside and then southwest Virginia and then up through the Shenandoah Valley. Within this region, which represents 75 percent of the state’s geography, 500,000 people have less than a high school diploma.
Because of this, Virginia is ranked 31st in the nation when it comes to the percentage of residents with at least a high school equivalency credential. The RVHI project’s vision is to transform Virginia’s rural communities through higher education and 21st-century job skills.
“Success Coach Julie Fainter was really helpful to me when it came to financial support,” Eachus said.
Fainter is proud of all Eachus has accomplished.
“She has faced a lot of challenges and adversity in her life, and RVHI grant funds helped to reduce some of Sydnei’s financial burden,” Fainter said. “Grant funds were used to purchase scrubs and OR shoes required for the surgical tech program, a laptop, textbooks, food gift cards and gas cards to help her get to her clinical locations, which were pretty far away.
“Sydnei is the thriftiest student I’ve met so far. She stretched the grant funds farther than any other student to date. I know Sydnei will do well moving forward. She’s smart, hardworking and resourceful, and possesses key life skills, such as budgeting, communication and problem-solving skills, all valued by employers, and which will serve her well in her personal life.”
Eachus earned her surgical technology certificate in October 2020. She applied to and was recently accepted into Laurel Ridge’s highly-regarded nursing program, which she will begin in fall 2022.
Eachus is grateful for all the ways in which she has benefited at Laurel Ridge.
“All aspects of Laurel Ridge have been really helpful,” she said. “I worked at the college as a work-study last year, and everyone was really nice. Everyone is just really friendly. I think the fact we can all be on a first-name basis kind of shows that.”
To learn more about the Path to Success program, contact Fainter at [email protected].
For more information on the surgical technology program, visit laurelridge.edu/surgtech. Information about the nursing program can be found at laurelridge.edu/nursing.
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.