Alexis Skjelbred always wanted to be a nurse, but life had other plans. After struggling in high school due to her test anxiety, Skjelbred was ready to throw in the towel when it came to pursuing her degree. As a single mom trying to keep a roof over her head, she started working in construction and plumbing to make ends meet. She had just enrolled at Spokane Community College in 2013 when she received an unexpected call from the Spokane Valley Fire Department. Her house wasn’t on fire; instead, she was awarded the Spokane Valley Fire Employees Scholarship, giving her the funds she needed to complete her education.
Today, Alexis Skjelbred has completed her goal of becoming a practicing nurse. She even cares for some of the firefighters who helped support her education. Learn more about her amazing story and how the Spokane Valley Fire Department helped her make her dreams come true.
Firefighters Give Back to the Local Community
Spokane Valley firefighters are committed to serving their local community in more ways than one. In addition to risking their lives to save their neighbors, friends, and colleagues, they’re also making sure local students have access to higher education. Every year, the department awards the Spokane Valley Fire Employees Scholarship to students in need. To raise money for the scholarship, firefighters sacrifice a portion of their paychecks.
These firefighters want their community to be successful. That means funding the education of aspiring professionals that want to make their community a better place. As Darrin Coldiron, SVFD firefighter and a scholarship founder, writes, “As firefighters, our job is to serve the community. We do that in emergency situations all the time, but I think our service doesn’t leave when we leave the job. We’re dependent on the community being healthy and strong, and this is a way we can help the community.”
In 2013, the Spokane Valley Fire Department interviewed Alexis Skjelbred as a possible contender for the scholarship. As Skelbred recalls, “I had put in a generic scholarship application about the year before and never heard anything back. I got a phone call, and someone identified themselves from the Spokane Valley Fire Department. I’m saying, ‘Oh, is my cat OK? Did my house burn down?’” After illustrating her passion for nursing, the firefighters eventually awarded the scholarship to Skelbred.
With additional financial support, Skelbred was eventually able to transfer to Washington State University Spokane to finish her nursing degree. Several years later, Skelbred landed her first nursing job in 2017, working as a cardiac nurse at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.
Skelbred went on to recall, “What blew me away was that these smart guys who really know their stuff and do a lot in the community thought I was worthy of their hard-earned money. They had faith in me. It gives you courage and motivation when you’re having a hard time because I’m here to tell you, nursing school is tough.”
Prior to her studies, Skelbred worked in the referrals department at the Community Health Association of Spokane. This gave her a chance to work with medically underserved people and help them navigate the often-confusing world of specialty care.
While Skelbred was more than grateful to receive the scholarship, she admits she wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of her dreams of becoming a nurse. Thanks to all her hard work, her dreams eventually came true. As you can see in the photo above, Skelbred is rocking a pair of scrubs from Cherokee Uniforms, a uniform she’s been vying to wear ever since she was a little girl. After seeing their mom take so much pride in her work, Skelbred’s two daughters are even considering a career in healthcare.
Returning the Favor
During her time at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, Alexis Skelbred got the chance to give back to the firefighters who supported her education. She cared for some of the same firefighters who interviewed her all those years ago. Skelbred recently shared a post on social media talking about how she cared for one of these firefighters towards the end of their life.
Firefighters tend to suffer from a range of workplace illnesses and injuries, including heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, hepatitis B and C, and high levels of physical and mental stress. As a practicing nurse, Skelbred understands the stresses that come with serving the larger community. Just like these firefighters, she uses her body to save lives every day.
This heartwarming story is a great reminder that it’s important to give back to your local community. Support aspiring healthcare professional in your area and help them reach their goals.