Before becoming a nurse practitioner and director of health services for Babson, Sharon Yardley studied criminal justice. “As a kid, I read all of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys and Cherry Ames books,” Yardley says. But after several years with the Massachusetts Department of Correction, she lost faith in the system and changed her mind. Stints as a waitress, a framer, and a dock supervisor ensued. Then she pursued another long-time passion, nursing, and has never turned back.
Why did you leave criminal justice? I worked with youthful offenders and did classification of inmates, and I loved it. This was way back in the ’80s, when Governor Dukakis went out of office and Ed King came in. King changed it so that anybody who had eight years or more to serve on their sentence would go to maximum security. My co-workers and I had strong feelings that if you mix youthful offenders with the regular population, they just come out worse. So I decided law wasn’t for me.
Why nursing? My sister, Sally, who is five years older than I am, became a nurse and spent her entire career at Children’s Hospital. She was my idol growing up. I wanted to be just like her. But I was one of those people who never buckled down in high school. I applied to nursing school and was not accepted. I wanted to be Nancy Drew anyway, so I decided criminal justice would be great. After leaving corrections, I moved with a friend to Tennessee. Years later, there was a shortage of nurses. So I ended up earning my master’s in nursing from Vanderbilt. Now I’m working on my doctorate from Regis College.
A passion outside of nursing? I love photography and travel. I’ve had the privilege of traveling with Babson to El Salvador to work with Habitat for Humanity eight times, and I’ve been to Rwanda once and Tanzania twice. In Africa, we teach entrepreneurship. The kids are amazingly smart. They’re taking that information and actually starting businesses and making money and helping support their families.
I went early this year to Tanzania and spent three days camping in the Serengeti. We were having breakfast one morning, and it was the migration of the wildebeests, and zebras travel with wildebeests. They were running by to go into the grass to eat. It was such an amazing experience.
A takeaway from your travels? It always grounds me. In El Salvador, there is no indoor plumbing, and you can’t drink the water. Without clean water, people die. In our lives, we’re surrounded by so much good fortune. I find it brings me back to reality.—Donna Coco