AMELIA RAY '09
"The teachers as a community, regardless, I took a little something from all of them. They are great people, and they’re truly there for the kids...I feel like that’s how I want to be for my patients. You want to be that light for your students or your patient, pushing them to do their best."
Amelia Ray ‘09, nurse practitioner and artist, finds her purest joy when making people happy. Whether it be while helping a patient through recovery or capturing the vision of her client, she is driven by caring for others. Wielding both a stethoscope and paint brush in hand, Amelia appreciates a life of diversity and multiple interests––a mindset she originally gained while at Epsicopal Collegiate.
Amelia attributes her well-rounded life in part to her parents, as they encouraged her to attend a larger university and explore all professional paths open to her. This push helped to point Amelia in the direction of nursing. “I’m grateful that [my parents] did push me into the career path, because it is nice that I have my real job––which is a nurse practitioner.”
After receiving her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree at the University of Arkansas, Amelia began working as a nurse doing spine surgery. Amelia decided to continue her studies, and attended UAMS here in Little Rock for her masters. She explains that, “When you go into your masters [in nursing], you have to pick where you’re going”––focusing on adults, children and maternity, family practice, or psychiatry. Amelia chose adult gerontology (the scientific study of the process of aging) and acute care, and she graduated in 2018, elevating to a nurse practitioner.
Amelia clarifies that, “Acute care nurse practitioners are the ones that are in the hospitals, [working on] short-term, specialized things.” Here’s where her specialization with spinal surgery falls. Not only did she feel as though this concentration had the most professional opportunities for her, she knew she always wanted to return to the operating room.
Though Amelia won’t hesitate to say, “I love my patients and really enjoy my job,” she will also tell you how much she loves getting to end her days in scrubs at home in her art studio; that she loves her “little side career, doing what [she] really loves.”
“I basically started to paint again during the pandemic. Not being able to see patients in the clinic or us having to cancel surgeries because we didn’t have hospital beds, forced me to stay home a lot. So I started picking up my paint brushes again, and I was like, you know what, I’m gonna give this a go!...[Now], I love to sit down, reflect on my day, and paint something.”
She says that art became her coping mechanism, helping her through the weight of the pandemic or just a rough day. Her art lets her help others in a different way, and she feels so grateful and humbled when her paintings bring people joy. She says, “Nothing makes you more confident than [knowing someone sees] your art in their house every day.”
In hindsight, Amelia’s high school experience mirrored her future, long-term interests. Though she was a self-proclaimed “artsy girl,” spending nearly every study hall in the art room, creating alongside her friends; she also has fond memories of Biology with Mr. Compton and Physics with Ms. Dowell. Most of all, she remembers her teachers as a comforting support system for her in a time when she––like all coming-of-age students––needed guidance.
“The teachers as a community, regardless [of what subject they taught], I took a little something from all of them. They are great people, and they’re truly there for the kids...I feel like that’s how I want to be for my patients. You want to be that light for your students or your patient, pushing them to do their best.”
Amelia recognizes that Episcopal offered her a holistic approach to life. For one, she balances science and art every day, knowing that a rounded life needs work and passion. Episopal and daily Chapel also reinforced her spirituality––even if she wasn’t aware of it at the time.
“I feel like during high school I didn’t think of [my spirituality] the same way, it was more like going through the steps, doing the thing. I wasn’t connected…[Now], I know and appreciate all the rituals to praise God. Everyone praises God in their own way. That’s the beauty of learning about yourself, of learning who God is to you...Chapel engrains something in you that you don’t even realize it’s there ‘til you grow up...I would love my kids to go and do that!”
The connections Amelia made while at Episcopal are still strong today; her social circle is filled with Wildcats. Even her neighborhood street is waiving their “green and white,” as Amelia spends “deck time” with some of her old classmates routinely.
During the 2020-21 school year, students admired Amelia’s paintings every day in the halls of the Upper School as a part of Episcopal’s annual alumni artist exhibit. Her painting called Peaceful is now featured permanently in the Alumni Artist Collection. She’s an alum whose presence is literally experienced by students daily, with her art serving as a bridge between Wildcats of today and yesterday.
Just as Amelia tries to be a light for her patients and her art clients every day, she suggests the same to Episcopal students. “Try to be the light in the room...Kindness will never hurt.” She also wants to remind those younger that, “You don’t have to know who you are yet, but stay grounded.” Seventeen-year-old Amelia would have imagined a different future, but from scrubs to canvas, Amelia today loves her life and thanks Epsicopal for being such an influential stop on her path, teaching her to find a life a balance.
After graduating from Episcopal, Amelia Ray attended the University of Arkansas and received her undergraduate degree in nursing. She worked as a nurse for a few years before deciding to continue her studies at UAMS, where she received her master’s degree. She now works as a nurse practitioner specializing in spine surgery in her hometown of Little Rock. In May of 2021, she got engaged, and she and her fiancé recently purchased a home on the same street as her sister and many of her alumni friends. Life for Amelia now includes treating patients, planning her wedding, decorating the new house, and playing with her chocolate lab puppy, Chili Dog. You can view Amelia’s artwork on Instagram @ameliaray_art