U of A nursing students create scholarship for one of their own

Students at the University of Alberta's nursing program have created a $500 scholarship to honour their friend and colleague Rachael Longridge. She was allegedly murdered by her mother last December.

Rachael Longridge was a top nursing student at the University of Alberta

Rachael Longridge, 21, poses for her graduation photos, and would have graduated from the University of Alberta's nursing program this June. (Facebook)

Marnie Colburne thinks of her friend every morning at 4 a.m., during her daily commute to the hospital.

A recent university graduate, Colburne is a newly minted registered nurse, just like Rachael Longridge always wanted to be.

"She just inspired everyone around her without putting anyone down," Colburne said Friday about her friend and classmate. "She's just such a nurse, always wanted to be a nurse."

Colburne was on holiday in British Columbia in December 2016 when she heard that her friend had been stabbed to death in Edmonton.

After Christmas break, Colburne used her role as president of the nursing undergraduate association to create a scholarship in Longridge's name.

The $500 annual award will go to a student in the nursing program who demonstrates leadership and commitment to the profession.

Rachael Longridge, left, was given a posthumous bachelor of science in nursing degree at convocation in June. (Facebook)

The association voted in the spring to increase membership fees by $2.50 per student to fund the scholarship.

"We see this being a scholarship that goes on forever," Colburne said.

'One of our most treasured alum'

The first person Colburne reached out to was Danielle Bourque, one of Longridge's best friends in the program.

"Rachael had such passion for what she did, and she was just looked up to by so many people at the U of A," Bourque said. "It's really great that they're able to recognize her in some sort of way."

Rachael Longridge with one of her best friends, Danielle Bourque. (Supplied by Danielle Bourque)

During Bourque's time in nursing school, Longridge was often the first person she turned to for advice.

In one of their last conversations, Bourque said her friend encouraged her to keep pursuing her degree.

"We really leaned on each other, she was just a leader in that aspect," she said.

Longridge, 21, knew as a young girl she wanted to be a nurse. That passion burned even brighter after her father was diagnosed with cancer in 2015.

She was so committed to her patients that she returned to school the day after her father died.  

"She's just one of our most treasured alum," said MaryLee Guthrie, assistant dean of the faculty of nursing.

University fundraising for an endowment fund

The scholarship is just way the faculty hopes to remember one of its own.

Guthrie said the university intends to fundraise $25,000 over the next six months to create an endowment fund in Longridge's name. If the university raises enough money, the fund would be used for larger academic scholarships.

Heart-shaped pins engraved with the initials R.L. were handed out to nursing graduates this June at convocation. (Marnie Colborne)

Convocation this June was full of small reminders of Longridge. Every registered nurse received a certification pin at graduation, and a small heart-shaped pin along with it, engraved with the initials R.L.

The university also granted Londridge a posthumous bachelor of science in nursing degree, and asked her brother, Michael, to walk across the stage on her behalf.

Christine Longridge, 50, has been charged with second-degree murder and possession of an offensive weapon in her daughter's death.

Her trial is set to begin in September 2018.