University of South Carolina Aiken
"Ms. Butler's academic achievements are extraordinarily high," says USC Aiken nursing professor Dr. Lou Gramling. "In fact, she has earned all A's and one B+ in all courses in the nursing major, a very noteworthy and rare academic record in a demanding major."
But a near-perfect 3.96 grade point average is only the beginning of what makes Kayla such an exceptional student. Besides having what Dr. Gramling describes as "the ideal combination of intellectual ability, calling to a profession and discipline to meet her goals," Kayla is a well-rounded, compassionate individual who is as actively engaged in her community as she is with her studies.
First, there's her passion for research and her commitment to addressing racial and ethnic health disparities. In summer 2008 she participated in the prestigious Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which helps prepare outstanding minority and disadvantaged students for future graduate study. As a McNair Scholar, Kayla worked on a research project that examined the influence of dietary practices on the occurrence of complications in African American diabetics. According to Dr. Gramling, "This project [represented] an extraordinary blend of clinical nursing, minority health and research. Few undergraduates can conceptualize such issues."
In addition to her rigorous academic schedule, which includes many honors courses, Kayla works part time as a student assistant in USC Aiken's Office of Intercultural Programs, where she edits Mosaic, a multicultural campus newsletter. Earlier this year, she coordinated the university's 2009 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. remembrance ceremony. Plus, Kayla somehow finds time to also get involved in a variety of community service activities. She has participated in such events as a 16-hour dance marathon to raise money for a local children's hospital, Christmas caroling at nursing homes, tutoring at Boys & Girls Clubs and more.
What lies ahead for Kayla, who will graduate with her BSN degree in May 2010? "I plan to work as an RN for approximately three years, then enroll in graduate school to pursue a master's degree and become a pediatric nurse practitioner," she says. "I love the thought of having the autonomy of a physician while staying within the scope of nursing. My ultimate goal is to obtain a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree so that I can research, develop and implement new practices for nurses to incorporate into their care plans as they attend to the needs of children with chronic illnesses."
University of Pennsylvania
Helen, a senior-year BSN student who will graduate next May, says she believes in the importance of "having a well-rounded, multidimensional education." That enthusiasm for exploring a wide range of learning experiences helps explain why she excels in so many different areas, from linguistic competence— she is fluent in Mandarin and Spanish—to research, health promotion and culturally sensitive patient care.
Dr. Marilyn Sommers, Helen's academic advisor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing Science, calls her "an extraordinary student. She is in our honors program and has taken an accelerated series of classes while maintaining a grade point average of 3.88 on a 4.0 scale. Our nursing students take many courses in the School of Arts and Sciences at Penn, a highly competitive academic environment with students from diverse backgrounds and with major fields of study such as languages, mathematics, English and biochemistry. Helen has a superb academic record across a host of courses and has taken courses in the prestigious Benjamin Franklin seminar series.
"This outstanding young scholar has at an early age demonstrated a serious commitment to the health of underserved and vulnerable populations," Professor Sommers continues. "During her clinical rotations, Helen has shown an interest in music and art therapy, patient education with a focus on disease prevention, and a profound interest and expertise in relating to patients and staff from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds."
For Helen, being a "multidimensional" scholar means balancing her academic accomplishments with service to her community. In addition to volunteering at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, N.J., Helen is a very active member of UPenn's Minorities in Nursing Organization (MNO), a student group engaged in health promotion and disease prevention activities in the West Philadelphia community. For the past year, she has served as MNO's fundraising chair, helping the group raise thousands of dollars to benefit the March of Dimes. This past summer, she participated in a medical mission program in Bolivia.
"I have always valued scholarship, since it is the foundation for a successful nursing career," Helen tells Minority Nurse. "In the future, I hope to become a nurse practitioner and continue to partake in rigorous research, promote evidence-based practice and engage in philanthropy both locally and abroad."
Some Minority Nurse Scholarship winners are chosen because they demonstrate outstanding potential to improve health outcomes for vulnerable populations in the future, once they complete their BSN program and begin their nursing career. But Arlene Patrick is one of those rare students who already has a substantial track record in this area. In fact, she has more than proven her ability to make a difference in the lives of medically underserved patients and families in her local Latino community.
As the program director and nursing coordinator for the health services division of the nonprofit Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen (N.J.), Arlene ran two inner city clinics that provided low-cost, culturally competent medical care to low-income, uninsured Latino immigrants. In this capacity, she developed and implemented several successful health promotion and preventive services programs, including one award-winning model program that substantially increased her clinic's immunization rates. As a result, Arlene was invited to speak at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s 2006 National Immunization Conference. She also earned a presenter's spot at a 2005 statewide lead poisoning prevention conference, where she shared best practices from her clinic's community lead-testing program.
"From our first meeting, Arlene impressed me as a self-directed learner who wanted to go beyond the class requirements to obtain knowledge and put it to use in her clinical practice," says Kean University adjunct professor of nursing Constance Sobon Sensor. "Throughout the semester, I witnessed Arlene grow professionally as she integrated the lessons learned in class into her practice to enhance cross-cultural communication and improve health outcomes for patients with potential cultural or linguistic barriers that would compromise their access to professional health care. Her bilingual abilities in Spanish and English stem from her [Latina] cultural background and contribute to her insight and success in working with communities to improve health. She is a model student and a natural leader."
A self-described older, nontraditional student and single mother of two children, Arlene has maintained an impressive 3.88 GPA while juggling the demands of her career and family responsibilities. She was recently inducted into the Lambda Iota Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the International Honor Society of Nursing. She is passionate about continuing her education and says her dream is to pursue a master's degree in nursing leadership after graduating from her BSN program in spring 2010. As she puts it, "continuing my education will enhance my capacity to serve those in need."
Due to recession-based funding cuts, one of Arlene's clinics was forced to close in June 2009 and she was laid off from her position at the diocese. Fortunately, she quickly found a new position as director of nursing and resident care at a local Emeritus Senior Living assisted living community. "Working with the senior population is a brand new opportunity for me," Arlene says. "Sitting down with the residents and listening to the challenges they face on a daily basis touches my heart. Sometimes all it takes is listening to their concerns, a gentle touch and comforting words to help them through the day. The beauty of a career in nursing is the flexibility, options and diversity of working with individuals in all aspects of life."