As a financial advisor for a large financial services firm, Devon Beneby heard horror stories and faced moral challenges. The economic crisis of 2008 had changed the field he entered several years earlier. Helping people – his original goal for his career – was now deemed less important than increasing commission for management and the firm.

A self-proclaimed “people person,” Beneby would have stayed in finance for many more years, but when the focus shifted away from the client and toward “the upselling of products,” he wasn’t on board.

“I couldn’t agree with that thinking. I wanted a chance to make a difference every day for my clients and for people in general,” he said. A married father of two in his mid-thirties whose own father taught him the importance of giving back through volunteering, Beneby thought the best way he could help people would be to advise them about smart money decisions. He used his finance degree from Florida International University to do just that, building a client base of working class state employees.

But then the rules in the finance game changed. Beneby advised a widow whose late husband’s medical expenses had dramatically reduced their life savings and impacted her standard of living. It was then that he realized he could help people in other ways. His thoughts turned to nursing.

Now, Beneby is nearing the end of the Accelerated Second Degree Baccalaureate Program in the UCF College of Nursing, where he has spent the last three semesters in a rigorous full-time program that prepares students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree or higher in another field for professional nursing practice. The program takes four consecutive full-time semesters to complete and admission is very competitive.

Like Beneby, most of the other students in the program are hitting the reset button on not only their careers but, essentially, their entire lives. Transitioning to full-time student status has been “challenging but doable,” for Beneby who, like many in the program, hadn’t set foot in a classroom for years.

Financing his studies has also taken its toll. “The savings account has taken a big hit,” he said, noting that getting financial aid can be challenging. He was fortunate to receive some scholarship support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, but there are still many unmet expenses. Besides tuition and fees (currently $212 per credit hour for a 57-65 credit hour program), there are uniforms, lab fees, books and other necessary items that can add thousands to the cost of study.

Luckily, the UCF College of Nursing has recently received a $600,000 grant to specifically support students in the Accelerated Second Degree Baccalaureate Program from the Helene Fuld Health Trust, the nation’s largest private funder devoted exclusively to nursing students and nursing education. Half will be available  as scholarship support, while the other half will be placed in an endowment fund to be invested.

The grant won’t benefit Beneby, who is in his last semester, but it will impact second-degree nursing students in the near future and for years to come. Looking ahead to his graduation later this year and his own upcoming nursing career where he hopes to work in a busy emergency room, Beneby says it’s the best he has felt in a long time about his future. “I’ll never have to worry about upselling the patient,” he says. “I know I’m doing something with a huge impact.”

To support the students and programs in the UCF College of Nursing, please contact Katie Korkosz, Director of Development, at 407.823.1600 or [email protected]