Polly Sheppard, one of five to survive the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church, hopes to encourage students to pursue careers in prison health.
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Polly Sheppard is one of the five survivors of the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting that claimed the lives of nine innocent people on June 17, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Emanuel AME Church Charleston Shooting
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Since the tragedy, Sheppard has become an activist and public speaker, participating in numerous local and national projects, sharing her message of forgiveness, and using her time to do good.

"So much hate. Too much," she told the audience at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. "But, as Scripture says, 'Love never fails.'"

Polly Sheppard
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For the past few years, Sheppard has been setting aside the money she earned from various speaking engagements to establish the Polly Sheppard Foundation.

According to The Post and Courier, Sheppard's eponymous foundation provided its first scholarship award in August. The nearly $6,000 scholarship administered by Trident Technical College, aims to encourage students to pursue careers in prison health and "to establish respectable medical treatment while assisting those in prison." In exchange, all recipients are required to work at least one year in the correctional industry.

Sheppard, who spent 14 years as a nurse at the Charleston County jail, told The Post and Courier that during her time there she encountered numerous prisoners who were incarcerated for "small" infractions, like driving with an expired license.

"You actually meet some interesting people in jail," she explained, "and over half of them are not actually criminals."

Sheppard said she was inspired to give the scholarship funds to students pursuing prison nursing after witnessing the shortage of compassionate nurses in detention centers firsthand.

Niki Walker, a 34-year-old mom of two and former corrections officer at the Davidson County Sherriff's Office in North Carolina, was the first recipient of the Polly Sheppard Nursing scholarship.

"Just because you are in jail doesn't mean you don't deserve adequate care," Walker told The Post and Courier. "No one is immune from making one bad choice."  

For more information, visit thesheppardfoundation.com.