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Amarillo College nursing student Rilee Weatherford, center, receives a scholarship check for $500 from representatives of the Moore County Hospital Auxiliary Phyllis Palser, right, and Nedra Napp.  Weatherford was moved to seek a career in health care after watching nurses in a hospital take care of two of her newborn family members who had been born prematurely.

Dumas High School (DHS) graduate Rilee Weatherford, class of 2014, was  in the new patient care wing of Memorial Hospital Monday to accept a $500 scholarship from Phyllis Palser and Nedra Napp of the Moore County Hospital Auxiliary.  The money will help Weatherford pay expenses as she studies at Amarillo College to realize her dream of becoming a registered nurse.

Every year, the Auxiliary, a group of volunteers who man the gift shop and the surgery waiting room, raise money for hospital projects, and perform a variety of services designed to bring comfort to patients and visitors alike, awards a $500 scholarship each to two DHS graduates studying for a career in health care at Amarillo College.  

Weatherford recently began her first year in the AC program.  Normally, the recipient has to be in the second year, but Weatherford's story is sort of unique, and Palser said they decided to make an exception.  Weatherford had recently completed her BA degree from Texas Tech University in another field.  They knew she had what it takes to graduate.  "If this is her dream, and she has thought 'I'm going to do it,' well, go for it," said Palser.

It was the experience of watching nurses in a Lubbock hospital take care of two premature, newborn cousins of hers that awoke in Weatherford the desire to be a nurse and ultimately led her to pursue a different career.  "I got to observe how passionate those nurses were and not only just by taking care of those sick babies, but how passionate they were for caring for the parents too," she wrote in her application letter for her scholarship.  "I remember one visit specifically where I was looking at one of the babies … and thinking, 'I want to do this one day.  I want to be the one who cares for and looks after these sick babies.  I want to be amazing just like these nurses.' "

Weatherford's mother, Kelli, who is a registered nurse in the obstetrics department of Memorial Hospital said she had talked to her daughter about a career in nursing in the past.  "I am real excited about it," she said of Rilee's career change.

Rilee said she would like to eventually work in a neonatal intensive care unit taking care of sick and premature babies, and she added she was open to working in Dumas or anywhere.  Her mother is hoping for Dumas.

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