Elliot Turner is grateful for the financial boost that helped him along the path to a successful career in the healthcare industry.
The Columbia resident is one in a long line of state residents who have received a South Carolina State Fair Ride of Your Life Scholarship since the fair launched the program in 1997. The fair annually awards 50 scholarships to South Carolina high school students who plan to study at any public or private college, university, or technical college in the state.
Turner won a Ride of Your Life Scholarship in 2005 when he was a student at Hanna Pamplico High School. Today, the 35-year-old is a pharmacist working for Merck Vaccines in the public health marketing division.
“Everything extra counted,” Turner recalls of the scholarship. “It helped. Every dollar helped.”
Turner said he initially applied for the scholarship on the advice of his high school guidance counselor.
“We were really connected and had a lot of support for various scholarship opportunities,” he said.
But nearly as significant as receiving the financial assistance, he said, was seeing his name added to the list of statewide winners.
“I went to the fair (during a trip to a University of South Carolina football game) and saw my name on the marquee, and that was really cool,” he said. “I didn’t realize that the name would be displayed that way. Going back and seeing the other names made me proud that I was a part of that legacy.”
Turner finished Hanna Pamplico as class salutatorian. He went on to USC where he received his doctorate in pharmacy and completed his residency at the former Palmetto Health (now Prisma Health) hospital system where he remained several years as an ambulatory clinical pharmacist before assuming his current job in 2016.
Turner received an MBA from the Darla Moore School of Business at USC in May of 2023.
“I came into college with an end goal in mind, and I stuck to it and accomplished it,” he said, noting the assistance had allowed him to focus more on school and less on who was paying for it.
“That journey was much easier because of the reduced financial strain,” he said. “It helped ease my mind.”
Turner said that even with the scholarship, it had taken several years to pay off his student loans, but he said the scholarship had reduced the amount of debt he would have taken on otherwise.
“The scholarship definitely helped offset those expenses,” he recalled. “The more opportunities and abilities we have to get assistance in some way, the better off we are.”
Turner still has fond memories of his time at USC.
“I met a lot of my lifelong friends in college that I am still friends with today,”
he said, adding his college years were also mixed with a blend of intramural sports, exercise, trips to the Riverwalk and the many other things that Columbia has to offer.
And since leaving college, Turner has made regular trips to the State Fair each October when he is reminded of the special fraternity that includes his name.
Turner said that high school seniors planning to attend college in the state would be well advised to apply for one of the scholarships.
“When I look back at my college days, anything that I could do to help me have the ride of my life, I would tell students to do that,” he said. “It really does help support a great time for a student.”
The South Carolina State Fair Ride of Your Life scholarships are currently $10,000 and awarded at $2,500 annually. The fair has awarded nearly $4 million in scholarships since launching the program in 1997. The scholarships are based on academic and extracurricular achievement, communications skills, need and completeness of the application. Anyone interested in applying for one of the scholarships should reach out to their high school guidance office.