Not Your Typical Student
By Whitney Heins
While most students do their studying in the library or at home, Paige Clark does hers in a dressing room.
“Everyone knows if it’s during the school year my laptop is going to be open and there are going to be books everywhere,” said Clark.
A senior in nursing, she works two jobs as a clogger in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, sometimes putting in more than 60 hours a week performing.
“I know it’s discouraging, but it’s how it has to be to pay the bills.”
An atypical college life
Nothing about Clark’s life as a student is typical. She is working not only to pay for her education but also to support her family. In Clark’s first year at UT, her grandmother was close to losing her house. Clark was the only one in the family able to get a loan to help her grandmother and purchase the home. So she started working—two jobs, six nights a week—in addition to her schoolwork and clinicals.
“On days I have a clinical, I go to the hospital from about 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. I drive straight to Pigeon Forge and am home from work around 11 p.m. I do my paperwork and get up and do it again the next morning,” explained Paige. “This is what I’m used to.”
Big work ethic, big heart
This year, Clark had a little extra help as the recipient of the College of Nursing’s NightinGala scholarship, affording her the opportunity to buy books, gas, and a much-needed laptop.
In addition to a strong work ethic, Clark has a big heart—something that led her to the path of being a nurse.
“That is my personality. I have a giant heart, and that is a position I can utilize my big heart,” said Clark, whose mother is also a nurse.
Clark wants to work in pediatrics when she graduates. As an honors student, she plans to conduct research into how aromatherapy may help nausea in pediatric patients undergoing chemotherapy.
“People today are either for or against essential oils. I wanted to do something that’s relevant and is at the intersection of my two interests—integrative health and pediatrics.” said Clark, noting how beneficial it is to be able to choose her research area.
Clark hopes to collect her research data this fall.
Life on stage
If all that weren’t enough, Clark is also a student ambassador, merchandise chair for the Student Nursing Association, and—wait for it—Miss Knoxville USA, a title she was honored with after applying on a whim.
“I figured I’m already not scared of being on stage, so why not try?”
The Miss Tennessee USA pageant is slated to happen over spring break 2021. So instead of heading to the beach like most other college students, Clark will be headed to the stage.
It’s just another example of how Clark’s atypical college career is helping her shine.
To help students like Paige fulfill their dreams or to learn more about Big Orange Give visit https://bigorangegive.utk.edu/nursing/.
Kara Clark (865-974-9498, firstname.lastname@example.org)