Careers in the medical field are not for the faint of heart and require a sound mind and a caring spirit in order to meet the needs of patients. One Yazoo County student is already well on her way to a career in Physical Therapy as she balances high school and college classes, community service, and other private volunteer work, which motivates her to help make the world a better place.
Elizabeth Eldridge is the 18-year-old daughter of Kimberly and Darryl Eldridge of Bentonia.
She has been attending the Yazoo County Schools as long as she can remember.
Now a senior at Yazoo County High School, Elizabeth has made the A/B Honor Roll every nine weeks, is ranked sixth in her class, and is maintaining a 3.85 grade point average. She is also a member of the Scholar Plus program at Yazoo County High School with a score of 22, and currently has a portrait banner hanging up in the school breezeway to honor her success. Currently, Elizabeth is still studying for the ACT in an effort to reach her goal of a 26, which would bring in large offers for college scholarships.
Because of her high academic standing, Elizabeth has gained membership into the National Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society, the National Scholar Society, and the BETA Club.
"When I am not doing my high school work I am actually working on college level classes," Elizabeth said. "I have already completed 12 hours of college work towards an Associate's Degree though Holmes Community College."
Determined to get a head start on a career in the medical field, Elizabeth also took courses to become a Nursing Assistant through the Larry Summers Vocational Center in Yazoo City. Her hard work and determination in studying for this medical field allowed her to succeed in multiple Skills USA Competitions.
"I won first place in the state competition for nursing aids," she said. "After that I went on to compete in Louisville, KY, and I was pretty much the only high school student competing in my category. I was able to place 27th out of 40 contestants, most of who were women who had gone through nursing school."
Aside from her academic achievement, Elizabeth finds other ways to stay active and involved in the world around her.
Elizabeth is a member of the community service club, where she and her peers participate in community service projects at school and in the community throughout the year.
"We actually worked at the 2019 Flood Aid benefit in Satartia last fall," she said. "We helped set up all of the tents and everything and kept the area clean and helped with the trash containers. We also helped with the parking for that day and did pretty much whatever they asked us to do."
This semester, Elizabeth and the rest of the Community Service Club members have collected coats and blankets for the neediest members of the community.
"There are a lot of people in Yazoo County who really do have unfortunate stories," she said. "Just because they are living on the streets or have a hard-luck story, that doesn't mean that they don't deserve somebody's help. We might not touch a lot of people, but we are really going to try."
Outside of school, Elizabeth works as a volunteer for three days a week at Adoration Hospice in Yazoo City, where her duties include answering the phone, doing general office work, and checking in with patients to see if any supplies are needed for the weekend.
"I like volunteering because it just makes you feel like you are doing something right," she said. "Honestly, that's really what anybody could ask for is to feel like you are doing something right."
When she is not getting the extra experience volunteering in this part of the medical world, Elizabeth also works part-time during the week sitting and caring for one of her elderly neighbors.
Genuine care and concern for the needs and wellbeing of a patient is the main reason that Elizabeth is seeking a career in the area of Physical Therapy.
After struggling for years dealing with a congenital heart defect called Ebsteins's Anomaly, and witnessing the care her mother received after undergoing a knee-surgery, Elizabeth decided that she was destined to work in the medical field either as a Nurse or a Physical Therapy Assistant.
"In the medical field they say that sometimes you have to hurt to feel a little bit better," she said. "I really just want to be the one to help relieve the pain instead of being the one that brings it. I want to be able to get straight to the point with patients and show them that what we can do will make them feel a whole lot better."
With a few college courses under her belt, Elizabeth has already received offers from Hinds Community College, Holmes Community College, and Mississippi Delta Community College.
"Both Holmes and Hinds have talked with me about scholarships since I did so well at the Skills Competitions," she said. "But right now I am eligible for a big scholarship with Mississippi Delta that is willing to pay my full tuition, my full room and board, and give me money for my books."
Elizabeth's plan is to finish her Associate's Degree and to obtain a license to be a physical therapy assistant. After that, she plans to work as an assistant while she attends school to obtain a higher degree in Physical Therapy, even if it means taking classes at night.
"That is all that I have ever wanted to do, so I will do whatever it takes to get there," she said.
Elizabeth is currently looking forward to several opportunities that she has coming up to shadow physical therapists who are currently working in clinics in Yazoo City.
"I am very excited to go and shadow," she said. "I already have a whole list of questions that I am going to ask when I get there. I am trying as best as I can to be prepared for everything."
Elizabeth said that reaching her dreams would not have been possible if not for caring relationships she has made with her teachers and counselors at Yazoo County High School.
"The counselors Mrs. Herring and Mrs. Trammell are always willing to lend a helping hand or an ear when you need it," she said. "And our teachers here are very involved with their students, like Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Wilson, they are willing to be there with you and for you and that makes this place have just a very friendly, welcoming, and compassionate environment for us."
Elizabeth said that her advice to other students who have dreams to succeed, despite multiple circumstances, is simply to build a close relationship with school counselors, to ask questions about anything and everything, and to never be afraid to try something new or outside of your comfort zone.
"Don't slack off when you get to your senior year," she said. "And apply to anything and everything that could get you a scholarship, because you never know what kind of opportunities are out there waiting for you."