Grace Lancaster has always loved helping people.
Now that she has received the Stephanie Lynn Gabriel Scholarship, Lancaster can pursue that passion through an education and degree at Catawba Valley Community College.
The Stephanie Lynn Gabriel Memorial Scholarship was established by Gabriel’s parents — Johnette and David Orr.
Gabriel was a 1996 graduate of the Emergency Medical Science program and performed her duties as a paramedic in an outstanding manner until she was killed in an automobile accident on June 15, 2010. She was 43.
Lancaster’s path to CVCC has been filled with challenges after initially pursuing a degree in teaching.
“I initially wanted to join the Coast Guard as a rescue swimmer, but I was afraid that I wouldn’t be strong enough to do it. I had a little bit of a confidence issue,” Lancaster said. “I got a bachelor’s in English, did some teaching here and there, did some clerical jobs and realized this wasn’t for me. I wanted to go back to what I really wanted to do.”
She enrolled in CVCC’s Emergency Medical Science program.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s definitely a lot of work and nerve-racking at times. We definitely have a great group of instructors who make it a lot more enjoyable. I personally love my classes. The people here make it feel less like a chore and school and more like an opportunity. It feels less like a ‘to-do list’ to get things done and more of a learning experience. I really like that.”
Lancaster learned about the Stephanie Lynn Gabriel Scholarship through her instructor and applied for it.
“Her story inspired me because it sounded like she was a really sweet person and loved helping people,” Lancaster said of Gabriel.
Lancaster heard the news she was receiving the scholarship while attending ropes day, during which her EMT class participated in training to rescue patients from a river or a ravine.
“We were finishing up ropes and walking back to eat lunch,” Lancaster said. “One of my instructors told me I got it. We were standing on the bridge at Murray’s Mill, and I was trying not to cry because I was really happy.”
“Receiving the Stephanie Lynn Gabriel scholarship has helped me tremendously,” she said. “Personally, I don’t know if I would have been able to continue with school without it. I was struggling to pay for things. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity. It’s helped me focus on school more and not having to worry about the cost of school. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders.
“It’s definitely pushing me more,” she added. “I’ve always had people behind me helping me, but it means more now knowing now that I have something to work toward and try to achieve. I want to be the best medic and rescuer that I can be.”
"The CVCC Foundation is grateful for the privilege of helping to carry forward Stephanie Lynn Gabriel's legacy of caring for others in their greatest time of need through this scholarship in her memory,” said Jennifer Jones, CVCC Foundation Executive Director. “Each of the recipients, including Grace, honor Stephanie's memory well through their work in emergency medical services."