Bull Nurse Trains for Cheer and Caring for Others
When nursing student Amber Arnold walked across the stage to receive her nursing pin on May 2, it was a symbol of triumph. Not many knew that her arduous road to graduation ran parallel to the rigors of being a nationally ranked cheerleader at USF.
USF’s cheerleading program is among one of the most competitive in Division I athletics. The team placed fourth at the 2019 UCA and UDA College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship, the most prestigious cheerleading competition in America.
In 2018, Arnold’s first with the team, USF finished eighth. Prior to competing at the 2016 UCA and UDA Championship, the co-ed team last appeared in 2003.
“We’re up with the big dogs,” Arnold says. “I’m really proud of that, and I’m so thankful to be a part of what they have accomplished.”
She says she did not think she would cheer again after her first two years of high school stateside before moving to South Korea.
With her father in the military, Arnold experienced many moves and different challenges. She was born in Germany, then attended fourth and fifth grade in South Korea, before stops in Florida, Texas and Virginia. The family returned to South Korea, where Arnold graduated high school and attended her first two semesters of college.
After taking prerequisite courses in South Korea, Arnold chose to continue her education at USF because she loved Tampa and wanted to return to the U.S. She took anatomy and physiology courses as a sophomore, hoping to be admitted into the College of Nursing.
Prior to being admitted to the Upper Division program, she met her future teammates during an unplanned run-in at the library. After meeting the coaching staff, she was eager to return to cheerleading.
As much as she loved it, she discovered that during the fall each Saturday is a full-day affair in support of the USF football program, leaving little extra time to study.
Arnold makes it clear that this is not the standard “waving my arms around” activity that some associate with cheerleading. Instead, all team members faced long hours of training, including three-hour practices, three times a week, and bi-weekly workouts at 6 a.m.
Along with the time commitment, there were other challenges, including a broken ankle. The day after her injury, Arnold hobbled into an exam on crutches, happy that she had already budgeted her time.
“I aced the exam because I had studied enough prior to practice,” she said.
Arnold’s life has been marked by taking on new challenges and adjusting on the fly. Perhaps that is why she has been able to deal with two demanding time commitments for two years.
She admits that juggling nursing assignments with her training schedule was often tough to manage. She also missed a cheerleading appearance once when her phone was silenced so she could catch up on sleep.
“There’ve been some instances where I’ve made mistakes, but there has been grace to cover it,” she added. “For the most part, I take things one day at a time because that’s all I can handle.”
Through it all she kept a calendar to, at the very least, jot down when and where she had to be. Arnold says her faith in God not only called her to pursue both passions, but helped her through the difficult times.
“My friends thought I was crazy,” she said with a laugh. “Sometimes they’d finish essays weeks in advance, and I’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, when is that due?’”
With the last two years complete, Arnold is thankful to her instructors and coaches for their continued support, and their understanding.
“In the College of Nursing, the instructors really care about our success,” she said. “They really do everything in their power to make sure we are successful. They care about us as people.”
After graduation, Arnold wants to focus on caring for patients.
She says she does not plan to go back to school in the near future. She’d rather take her nursing know-how and use it to help others.
“I think, right now, my dream is just to be an exceptional nurse,” she said. “I want to be able to help my co-workers, and I want to be able to serve my patients very well. That’s my dream — to be a nurse who knows her stuff and who always does what is best for her patients.”
Now with just one dream to prioritize, Amber Arnold is simply taking things one day at a time.
Story by Alex Hooper, USF College of Nursing