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Project OPEN: A challenging program for students with financial needs - Flor-Ala: News

Project OPEN: A challenging program for students with financial needs

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Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014 5:00 am

The College of Nursing offers the Project OPEN (opportunities for entry into eursing) scholarship for Nursing and Pre-Nursing majors who are economically and educationally disadvantaged, and/or under-represented minorities.

Project OPEN has been awarded to 128 students, according to the College of Nursing webpage. It is designed to cover any unmet need for students who already receive financial aid or other scholarships.

“It’s not just a scholarship — it’s a program,” said Tera Kirkman, assistant professor of nursing and project director.

The program’s main objective is to look at students who are at a disadvantage financially or come from an area where there are no opportunities for enrichment. It is funded by a grant the federal government awarded to the College of Nursing in September 2012, Kirkman said.

In its first year, the program covered housing, books, meal plans and uniforms, Kirkman said.

The program looks at all different varieties and diversities of students when considering candidates for Project OPEN, said Ernestine Davis, professor of nursing and project co-director.

Since economic factors can deter students from meeting goals, Project OPEN helps to reduce that stress, Kirkman said.

Project OPEN offers various credit hours depending on what class the student is in and covers tuition and fees, Kirkman said.

In order to qualify for the program, students must be a full time student within the College of Nursing. Students must maintain a 2.5 GPA to qualify, but students are encouraged to have a 3.0., Kirkman said.

“When you set a bench mark, they (students) strive to do their best,” Kirkman said. “I believe all students are committed to be successful in the Nursing Program.”

Once a student is awarded the scholarship, he or she has to participate in the activities that accompany it, Kirkman said.

This includes submitting monthly progress reports, being an active member of the Student Nurses Association (SNA), attending group meetings monthly, meeting bi-annually with his orher Project OPEN adviser and meeting with a peer mentor.

Katie Mauldin, a third level nursing major, first received the scholarship during the spring 2013 semester. It wasn’t hard to meet the requirements because the meetings and peer mentorships are beneficial, Mauldin said.

The Project has helped pay for Mauldin’s books, shoes, scrubs, $250 in necessities,and fees, she said.

“My sister is in college too so that (the scholarship) was a huge help for my family,” Mauldin said.

Kayla Williams, a level three Nursing major, thinks Project OPEN is a wonderful scholarship program, she said.

“I have a large number of friends who are in the (Nursing) program with me who have and are greatly benefiting from the OPEN program,” Williams said. “It offers excellent benefits and with a caring staff behind it.”

Some of the benefits of Project OPEN are advising and mentoring opportunities to help students retain focus, said Kirkman.

“As we hold students accountable, we are also held accountable,” she said.

Nursing majors who are a part of Project OPEN can bring someone who isn’t in the Project with them to peer mentoring sessions, she said.

Scholarship recipients must sign a contract agreeing to meet all of the criteria. Project recipients will be awarded a year at a time, then they must reapply, said Kirkman.

If a student fails to be active in the Project, he/she will not be awarded the scholarship again, and if a student decides to change his/her major, he/she will have to repay the money, said Davis.

“Some of them lose commitment and decide to change their major after entering the program,” Davis said.

Senior Katelyn Cosby believes the projects demands may be asking too much of the average college student, she said.

“People have lives outside of school and they (Project advisers) expect them (students) to keep a (2.5) GPA,” Cosby said. “When are they supposed to have time to study and do clinically?”

In order to apply for Project OPEN, students can go online to the UNA homepage, the College of Nursing home page or they can get an application from the Project OPEN office, room 209 in Stevens Hall.

The deadline to apply is March 25.

Editor's note: Nursing was recently ranked the university's top major, click here to learn more.

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