Jena Rhoads is admittedly a “super” competitive person.
When she enters Northern Kentucky University next fall, Rhoads will be in a competition of sorts. With her grandmother at her side, Rhoads will begin her quest for a nursing degree.
“My grandma (Susan Wedding) was the reason that made me decide I should go into nursing,” said Rhoads, a senior at Wilmington High School who signed her National Letter of Intent Wednesday to play softball at NKU.
In late September, Susan Wedding passed away. She was mother to Ashley Wedding Rhoads and Gabby Wedding. Ashley is Jena’s mother.
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go into nursing until about a month ago,” Jena said. “My aunt, Gabby Wedding, is a vet. So that is kind of what got me into wanting to go into the medical field. My mom and I were sitting in the kitchen and I was talking about how hard it (nursing) would be and how I didn’t know if I would be able to do it. She told me that my grandma had started nursing school but never got to finish it.”
Susan’s death brought to light something unfulfilled. Jena now plans to make her grandmother’s dream a reality.
“My mom told me that gives me a reason to go into nursing,” said Jena. “I can finish what my grandma never got to (finish). Anytime I feel as if it’s getting too hard, I can always think of her and why I did it in the first place.”
Rhoads has been playing softball competitively since she was 8. She’s played basketball and volleyball as well, including the last two years of volleyball on the WHS varsity squad.
But softball was always her passion.
”I’ve never felt a love for a sport more than I have with softball,” she said. “It brings out my competitiveness and makes me want to become a better athlete.”
Rhoads said she considered Division I schools Miami University in Oxford as well as Saint Francis (Pa.) University, along with Division II Lander University in South Carolina before deciding on NKU.
”I unfortunately couldn’t do any official visits because of Covid,” she said. “The class of 2022 really got impacted the most during our recruiting process. Covid took away a lot of things we would’ve normally gotten to do, like official visits during our junior yea .”
Official or not, Rhoads had an immediate connection with the staff and the university.
“The coaching staff at NKU is amazing,” she said. “When I first talked to coach (Kathryn) Gleason, the head coach, she was so kind and welcoming. She had nothing but positive things to say about me as a player. I love her energy and the way the coaching staff coaches the team.
“NKU is less than an hour from my house, so I get to stay close to my family and friends. When we visited the campus for the first time, it felt like home. I just knew that NKU was for me. I had that feeling like ‘Wow, this is it. This is exactly where I want to be for the next four years’.”