magazine-category: Students

Inaugural Tucker Scholar Leah Carpenter Wants to Change Lives

Inaugural Tucker Scholar Leah Carpenter Strives to Follow Life Altering Example in Nursing

Leah Carpenter’s smile is so genuine, people are compelled to return in kind and offer a greeting. “Her light and love radiate,” affirmed her youth pastor, Taylor Campbell, when he nominated her for the Tucker Scholarship.

At the scholarship presentation in 2020, members of the selection committee described her as a “ray of sunshine”—one of the many reasons why she was named Gardner-Webb University’s first Tucker Scholar. Established by dedicated supporters, Carolyn and Robert Tucker, the Tucker Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength Scholarship is awarded to a student with exceptional academic achievement. Equally important, the individual also exemplifies the commands of Jesus found in Mark 12:29-31—“Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” 

The formal scholarship presentation was made by the Tuckers’ daughter, Lisa, a 1989 alumna. “I was so impressed with you from the moment we met,” she told Carpenter. “Everything you stand for; it beams from you immediately.”

Carpenter applied for the eight-semester full-tuition, room and board scholarship but never thought she would win. “I remember clear as day when I got the call,” she related. “It was during school and I’m crying and sobbing and calling my mom and we were jumping for joy. I never thought I was going to get it, but I’m humbled that I did.”

She continued, “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to be here in the first place. The Tucker family has been caring and generous to me. They taught me to be generous to other people, to lead by example and show the love of God anywhere you go.”

Carpenter said the weight of being the first person to represent the Tucker name can be overwhelming, but she finds encouragement in that foundational scripture. “I remember when I got the award, and Carolyn Tucker gave me this plaque,” she reflected. “It had Mark 12:29-31 on there. She said the last thing is the most important part—to love your neighbor as yourself—and so I’ve really tried to instill that in my life at Gardner-Webb. I think the best way to represent the Tucker family is to be love and show the love on campus.”

One of the ways Carpenter shines on campus is by helping to lead a Bible study through the Delight Women’s Ministry. She also attends the student-led worship service, The Gathering. She’s a member of Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), and Student Nurses Association (SNA). During the summer, she’s involved in Carolina Cross Connection, a ministry that uses volunteers to provide home repairs for people in need. She also helps with the homeless ministry at her church.     

With her attitude and personality, it’s easy to see why Carpenter chose nursing as her major. “I wanted to be at the bedside every single day and make sure people were advocated for, and I could serve people well,” she explained. “You truly get that one-on-one time with your patients when you are a nurse.”

Now a GWU senior, Carpenter started clinical rotations when she was a sophomore. She’s observed intensive care and worked in obstetrics, medical-surgical, operating room, and behavioral health. One of her clinical instructors, adjunct Dominique Belgrave, applauded her development. “Both nurses and patients she encountered complimented Leah on her teamwork, broad knowledge, impressive implementation and interpersonal skills,” Belgrave asserted. “Throughout the semester her confidence grew, and she learned how to use her clinical judgment when caring for her patients.”

After years of pursuing the goal of being a nurse, Carpenter described the first time she cared for patients as surreal. Filled with excitement, she also experienced wonder, doubt and joy. Getting over those initial fears requires a proper balance of caution and confidence.

One of my instructors told me that, ‘A scared nurse is a good nurse, because you should never be overconfident where you cannot ask for help,’” she shared. “You remind yourself that you’re not alone. There’s someone to guide you.

Leah Carpenter

Carpenter concluded, “I’m excited but also have to remind myself of the responsibility I now have when it comes to caring for someone else. I love that I am learning so much in the hospital and going to clinicals has shown me just how tiring but rewarding nursing can be.”

Leah Carpenter’s Top Five Reasons to Love Gardner-Webb:

  1. The people. You feel at home, and welcomed.
  2. Faith-based campus. Professors take the time to pray before a test and when asked, share godly counsel.
  3. The sunsets. Nowhere else in the world has sunsets like this.
  4. The student-athletes. I’m a big sports fan, and I love the fact that you can get to know the people on campus who play sports.
  5. The smaller campus. Everybody says this, but it’s the truth. Being in a class with 10 students means you get to know them and your professor.

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