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Nursing Students win $1,000 Soroptimist Live Your Dream Award

March 01, 2021

Soroptimist WinnersBecoming a nurse is challenging under the best conditions. The rigorous program at Schoolcraft College, for example, includes one day of theory and two days of clinical, plus homework and studying. Add the demanding curriculum to responsibilities at work and at home, and nursing students often must become adept time and activity jugglers while they train to become vital front-line healthcare works. Of course, today’s nursing students also have to deal with the terrible emotional and economic impacts created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortunately, a new area club of Soroptimist International of the Americas, a global organization that works to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment, has stepped up to help three students, two of whom who are enrolled at Schoolcraft College. Awarded $1,000 each by Soroptimist International of Hines Park were Tiera Graham and Autumn McKinney, second-year nursing students who each are a recipient of the Live Your Dream award.

“Soroptimist is an international organization of women who are empowering women through education,” said Diane Thompson, coordinator of the award. “The Live Your Dream award is our main program to do this. We work with women, who are financially responsible for family members, who have decided to go back and get a degree or certificate to improve their job prospects.”

SI Hines Park arrives just in time

The Hines Park club, which serves Southeast Michigan, was founded in 2020 – just in time to help. The funds can be used for any expense.

“It’s an award for them to use to make sure they can get to the end,” Thompson said. “It can be used for child care, tuition, food, utilities, car repairs – anything that helps the students get to the finish line. We want to give women some financial stability and also empower them to make the right decision based on their situation.”

Candidates for the award have to be enrolled in an accredited post-secondary school program, be the head of the household, and show financial need.

Dr. Debi Vendittelli, DNP*, ANP-BC**, nursing program associate dean and secretary of the Hines Park club, said, “Over 70% of the nursing students at Schoolcraft College have financial needs, so this award will be very helpful to the students. Over half of our students work in addition to their school and family responsibilities.

“With COVID-19, they’re having to deal more with child care issues and doing more in terms of educating their children from home because the schools have been closed. Plus their significant other may not be working, or there are other family obligations, so there’s been tremendous economic and emotional hardship.”

Both Graham and McKinney became interested in nursing at an early age.

For Graham, of Detroit, her exposure began with a grandmother who was a nurse at a nursing home. That inspired Graham to become a patient sitter and then a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).

“My sister pushed me to take the next step and become an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse),” Graham said. “I had three children at the time, so I didn’t think there was any way I could go to school and take care of the kids.

“But I graduated in December of 2017 and the next year I enrolled at Schoolcraft. I really appreciate the way they let me take care of my family and go to school and work. I have my last payment due and I haven’t been able to work as much because of COVID, so the Live Your Dream award will cover my tuition. I’m very grateful.”

McKinney, of Ann Arbor, traces her interest in nursing to a career day in middle school. She’s also seen her work schedule curtailed because of COVID and been feeling the pinch economically.

“It just seems like I’m always behind on bills, so the Live Your Dream award is a big help,” she said. “It will make things a little easier. I appreciate this award very much.”

*DNP stands for Doctor of Nursing Practice

**ANP-BC stands for Adult Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified