Kaylee Watford is not intimidated by the competition that she faces trying to get into the College of Nursing at East Carolina University.

“There will be 600 freshman like myself vying for about 130 spots our junior year,” said Watford, 17, a recent graduate of Pinecrest High School. “It’s going to be tough, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. If I work hard enough, I will be successful.”

Watford did just that after a promising cross country debut as a freshman at Pinecrest was derailed by stress fractures in her shins.

“When I got back into running, I found I couldn’t excel like I used to, became very frustrated and really began to dislike the sport,” she said. “I made the decision the summer after my junior year to try a different sport, one in which I could excel.”

Watford chose golf, which she had played earlier in her life, and practiced every day that summer while taking weekly lessons.

“When it came to tryouts, I gave it my all and made the team,” she said. “Just because you have a setback in life doesn’t mean you can’t recover from it.”

Watford is the winner of the Newman Education Achievement Award presented annually by The Guild at St. Joseph of the Pines.

The $500 award is open to any non-exempt St. Joseph of the Pines colleague – full- or part-time – who has been employed for at least one year, or a dependent of such a colleague. Applicants must be attending high school or college. Preference is made to applicants who demonstrate above-average grades and are planning a career in nursing, medical technology, or other healthcare field.

“Kaylee exemplifies the qualities we’re looking for, and then some,” Guild President Barbara Freemal said. “Whether it’s competing in athletics, volunteering at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, or helping with the U.S. Kids Golf tournament, she has a strong track record of success
and achievement.”

Watford said the award “means a lot to me.” “It will go a long way toward helping me accomplish my academic goals,” she said. “It will also be nice to start college with a financial boost, one that I’m sure my parents appreciate as well.”

Her mother, Melissa, is director of wellness and resident services at St. Joseph of the Pines.

“Both of my parents work in health care, so I’ve been around it my whole life,” Kaylee Watford said. “My dad is in medical sales, and I have an aunt who is a nurse at Sandhills Pediatrics. I admire them because they make a difference every day.”

Watford added that she is looking forward to starting college this month.

“I toured a bunch of schools, but ECU is really where I wanted to go,” she said. “Their nursing program is really good, so that’s a plus. Working in a hospital is something I’ve always wanted to do. I like taking care of people.”

St. Joseph of the Pines is an aging services network offering a full continuum of retirement housing, health care and community-based services for older adults as well as community outreach to those in need. It is a Trinity Health Senior Community continuing the legacy of the Sisters of Providence.

Pictured left to right in feature photo: Guild President Barbara Freemal, Kaylee Watford, Melissa Watford

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