Another year, another record-breaking number of applicants, and another group of nurses and soon-to-be nurses that overwhelmed us with their determination, dedication, compassion, and intelligence. Choosing our scholarship winners has always been a difficult task, and this year was no exception. But after much deliberation, we are so proud and thrilled to introduce our winners to you! We hope their stories resonate with you just as they did with us.
And just as we reveal this year’s winners, we invite you to send in your applications for next year’s scholarship. To apply for the Minority Nursescholarship, you must:
Be a racial or ethnic minority.
Be enrolled (as of September 2013) in either the third or fourth year of an accredited B.S.N. program in the United States or an accelerated program leading to a B.S.N. degree (such as R.N.-to-B.S.N. or B.A.-to-B.S.N.) or an accelerated master’s entry program in nursing for students with bachelor’s degrees in fields other than nursing (such as B.A.-to-M.S.N.). Graduate students who already have a bachelor’s degree in nursing are not eligible.
Have a 3.0 GPA or higher (on a 4.0 scale).
Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
We encourage you to apply for the 2013 scholarship and look forward to reading your application!
First-Prize Winner, Shylisa Hicks
Born in San Diego, Shylisa Hicks now lives in Bastrop, Louisiana, and attends Grambling State University. She belongs to a litany of nursing associations, volunteers her time, and has bright plans for the future.
But it is Shylisa’s life story, one of overcoming seemingly crushing adversity, that truly inspires. Her father was killed when she was five years old. Child Protective Services removed Shylisa from her mother’s home at 10 years old. She went to live with her grandmother, then aunt and uncle, where she stayed.
Originally two grades behind her peers, Shylisa persevered and eventually graduated high school early as an honors student. She continued her honors course work at Grambling State.
Bubbly and laughing, Shylisa says she calls her aunt and uncle mom and dad. “I wouldn’t be anywhere with out my parents,” she says. “I appreciate it all.” She also credits her success to her supportive husband—also her high school sweetheart. She hopes to one day have two children of her own.
“I really wanted a big family,” Shylisa says, and she grew up with three siblings. “I love kids . . . especially to make them feel better when they’re sick.” She currently treats children and families in their homes. “I just fell in love with it,” Shylisa says.
Shylisa plans to obtain a doctoral degree and become a certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). “Somebody has to do it,” she says. “I want it to be me....I’ve had a rough life myself.”
“It’s been a bumpy road, but I love it,” Shylisa says of her nursing education. She is excited for the future, and she intends to go back to school to become a Nurse Practitioner, eventually going on to establish a pediatric clinic.
Runner-up, Sandrine Nankap
Now living in Winchester, Virginia, where she attends Shenandoah University, Sandrine Nankap grew up in Cameroon, on the West coast of Africa. Hundreds of people in her country live in poverty and die of AIDS due to lack of knowledge and resources, she says. Though she volunteered with children and teens to teach them about HIV/AIDS prevention, Sandrine wanted to do more.
The fourth of seven children, Sandrine says her parents could only afford to send one of them to school. “They put all their money on me,” she says. “They did their best to encourage me in everything I wanted to do.” In her culture only men are thought to deserve schooling, to lead a family, Sandrine says. “I had a lot of pressure to be a successful woman.”
Ranked high in her secondary school class, Sandrine wanted to educate others and make a difference in their lives, so she went to nursing school, graduating in 2004. In 2008 she was “blessed with the opportunity to come to America,” hoping to become a nurse educator, combining two professions in which she believed strongly.
But upon arriving in America, Sandrine found she did not have enough money to support the continuing education needed and her two young children. “As a single mom, I started to work as a coffee maker at Dunkin Donuts for almost one year.” She was promoted to assistant manager. “Working with that company, I kept some money that allowed me to go for my nursing assistant training.”
Within two months, Sandrine took a job as a nurse assistant. It was one of her lucky breaks, she says. The other nurses counseled her, taught her. “They helped me achieve my dreams,” she says. “I passed [the NCLEX] on the first try and today, after all this struggle and tears, I am proud to be a registered nurse.” She still wants to become a nurse educator, teaching both in the United States and Cameroon.
In five years, she’ll be pursuing her doctorate, Sandrine says, and she’s starting her master’s course work next year. “I like to learn. I love knowledge,” she says in a soft yet steady voice. “I worked so hard for everything that I have....I have a lot of ambition.”
Sandrine says she wants to send her younger siblings to schools as well. She sends them whatever money she can so they can come to America too. Sandrine also wants to return to Cameroon to help other young women become nurses. “I’m really grateful for this opportunity to be what I want to be in life,” she says.
Runner-up, Cerilene Small
“Every morning I wake up and begin my daily rituals of feeling the left region of my face,” says Cerilene Small. She keeps her eyes shut, afraid she will open them and be unable to see. It’s happened in the past, and because she has multiple sclerosis, it could happen again. Cerilene was diagnosed in 2009.
A competitive African dancer, Cerilene first knew something was wrong when she lost feeling in her body—but her mother thought it was due to her dancing all night. Then, after months of inconclusive tests, she learned she had MS.
“It was really hard” going into senior year, Cerilene says. She was scared of going anywhere, hopeful but cautious of what her future might hold. Originally from Brooklyn, Cerilene applied to New York University undecided, but after spending a month in the hospital, she says she realized she wanted to become a nurse. “My nurses really had a strong impact on my recovery,” Cerilenesays—so much so that she redid her college applications.
Now enrolled at NYU, Cerilene started classes in February 2011, and she had her first MS “flare up” not long after. She says she has about one flare-up each semester, but she’s trying and adjusting to the effects of a new treatment.
Being an honors student, a high school valedictorian, and a first-generation student, they all pale in comparison, Cerilene says, to being able to take advantage of every day “as a leader.” She mentors other first-generation students and one day hopes to open a youth health center offering free clinical services. She aspires to pursue a five-year dual degree (B.S.N./M.S.N.) in pediatric nursing.
Become familiar with the population you want to serve, Cerilene advises soon-to-be nurses. “Try to get involved before clinicals.” Know that the work is hard, but learn to “be a leader on your own.” After that, just “have faith,” she says. “You’ll do fine.”