When Eliany Torrez Pon learned that her grandmother in Nicaragua had ovarian cancer, she and her family sent money to relatives in their home country to help. Pon contributed the $2,000 she had saved to pay for her spring semester tuition, knowing she would not able to pay for classes — as a DREAMer (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), she does not qualify for financial aid.
Then the email arrived from the College of Nursing Scholarship Committee. At first she thought it was a hoax. Pon had been awarded the Vivian and Barry Woods Educational Endowment Scholarship. The amount of her award was $2,000. “There were many things in life trying to stop me from my dreams, almost convincing me that this life was not meant to be,” she says. “But if receiving this scholarship when I did doesn’t tell me that I am meant to be where I am today, then I don’t know what will.” Pon is on track to graduate in 2018 and thanks the donors who have given her the opportunity to “save lives in the future, while making something of mine.”
Pon was one of the 113 nursing students who received a private donor-funded scholarship this year, selected from more than 400 applicants. Students and their donors met at an annual scholarship luncheon this week to share stories about the power and impact of philanthropy.
One of those donors was Sarah Dodson ’01, who established the In Memory of Marlie Kai Dodson UCF Oncology Nursing Endowed Scholarship in 2012, in honor of her daughter who died in 2011. Many UCF nurses cared for Marlie during her stays at Arnold Palmer Hospital and inspired Dodson, who wanted to support future caregivers graduating from the UCF nursing program. Recently, Dodson experienced a déjà vu moment when her niece was hospitalized at the same hospital where Marlie spent so much of her life. “I was a worried aunt, assuming the worst,” she says.
As fate would have it, her niece’s nurse was Mackenzie Chase, ’16, the 2015 recipient of Marlie’s scholarship. “It was at that moment, I felt the impact of giving,” says Dodson, who watched as Mackenzie confidently cared for her niece. “I knew everything would be fine.”
The College of Nursing awarded $332,000 in scholarship support this year – the largest amount ever. Two new endowed scholarships were established this year: The Elaine Alliance Endowed Scholarship will support undergraduate nursing students and the Dr. Angeline and John R. Bushy Endowed Scholarship will support doctoral students interested in rural health.
“We are very thankful for the support we receive from our alumni and friends in providing scholarships for our nursing students,” said Mary Lou Sole, dean of the UCF College of Nursing. Sole also noted that six nursing faculty members had established endowed scholarships, and more than 2,000 faculty and staff members contributed to programs and funds campus-wide – including many to benefit the College of Nursing — during the recent faculty and staff campaign.
Another student who benefited from a scholarship was Robin Kintz, whose path to nursing was a circuitous one. As a middle schooler, she was a caregiver to her breast cancer-battling mom and aunt, and was told she had a knack for the nursing profession. She resisted, and it wasn’t until later in life when she realized her calling. This semester, she started her first adult rotation — ironically, on the woman’s oncology unit at Florida Hospital. “When I walked onto the unit, I looked at the patient’s names on the doors and two stuck out to me: my mom’s and my aunt’s,” she says. “I couldn’t help but think, I must be doing something right with this whole nursing thing.”
Katie Korkosz, director for advancement at the college, says scholarships are a funding priority and assist students with their tuition and educational expenses. “Many nursing students are not able to work during the program due to the rigorous curriculum, so scholarship support is critical and helps us recruit and retain the best and brightest students.”
Kintz agrees that working while studying is hard. “Entering nursing school last fall was a real challenge for me,” she says. “I was working 30 hours a week to pay my bills and was told that working during nursing school would be difficult.” Luckily, Kintz received the Compassion for Nursing Endowed Scholarship which gave her the means to pay for tuition, and more. “It gave me peace of mind and the ability to focus more on my classwork.”