Local Program Spotlight

Taking Care of Each Other

The impact of scholarship programs across the CommonSpirit Health ministry.

Chicago, Ill. (February 10, 2022) – CommonSpirit Health strives to build more resilient communities, advocate for those who are poor and vulnerable, and innovate how and where healing can happen—both inside our hospitals and out in our communities. For local philanthropy offices, that often means funding the equipment, programs and places that facilitate healing in all of its forms. Increasingly, however, it also means investing directly in those we serve and those who serve others.

Across the foundations of CommonSpirit, philanthropy supports a variety of scholarship programs, all with the shared goal of healing through education. Several of these awards are focused on promoting the practice of healing through the education of community youth interested in careers in health care. Other programs address the education of future caregivers currently enrolled in nursing school. For those already working within our facilities, scholarships encourage the pursuit of advanced education and at least one looks to promote education as a tool for healing for those whose young lives have already been touched by adversity.

At CHI St. Joseph’s Health Foundation in Park Rapids, Minnesota, three scholarships are offered annually to area students who are pursuing higher education in the health care field. The program places special emphasis on those with a strong desire to return to a rural health care facility, where specialists and providers are scarce. Kearney, Nebraska’s CHI Health Good Samaritan Foundation recently awarded $13,000 in scholarships to 13 students whose field of study includes a career in health care. Since 1989, the hospital’s foundation has awarded $273,641 in scholarships to 403 future nurses, respiratory therapists, paramedics and other health professionals.

St. Joseph's Foundation of San Joaquin, in Stockton, California offers scholarships to students currently enrolled in a health care field. These merit-based scholarships are funded by generous community donors, seeking to encourage, inspire and support outstanding students. Since 2005, St. Joseph's has awarded nearly $350,000 in scholarships to 294 deserving students.

Bakersfield Memorial Hospital Foundation awards scholarships on an annual basis to nursing students who are residents of Kern County, California and are currently enrolled in two-year, four-year and advanced-degree nursing programs. At Redwood City, California’s Sequoia Hospital Foundation more than $1.3 million has been awarded since 2005 to 122 nursing students earning their Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Programs such as these are addressing the ongoing global nursing shortage while putting education within reach locally for many future care providers.

“I was fortunate enough to receive the Sequoia Hospital Foundation’s Dr. William Kennett Memorial Nursing Scholarship in 2010 and have worked at Sequoia Hospital since graduation,” said Elissa Hirschmann, RN. “I started on the Cardiac Surveillance Unit and for the last 11 years have worked in the ICU. Becoming an RN was a dream come true but it took a lot of hard work. To be acknowledged and supported on my journey with the scholarship was wonderful and encouraging. I am so pleased to have spent these past dozen years serving our community at Sequoia. This investment in our community’s future nurses is something we should all be proud of and support wholeheartedly.”

Arkansas’ CHI St. Vincent Foundation offers annual scholarships to coworkers through the employee giving campaign. The campaign supports two funds, one dedicated to scholarships and one focussed on supporting coworkers who are experiencing a financial hardship. Additionally, the foundation awards three $10,000 scholarships, funded by the Auxiliary and donors from the community, to support employees working towards a nursing degree. Elsewhere, the Lauren Mickool and Robert Greenwald "Love of Humanity'' Scholarship at California’s Northridge Hospital Foundation is awarded annually during Nurses Week to provide financial assistance to registered nurses who are currently pursuing a higher education. Recipients are chosen based on their demonstration of love of humanity in their nursing practice.

Throughout the CommonSpirit ministry, the love of humanity is shared not only by our trained medical practitioners but also by our dedicated hospital volunteers. In addition to its wonderful adult volunteers, Arroyo Grande Community Hospital is fortunate to have high school student “Volunteens” who set aside their valuable time during afternoons, evenings and/or weekends to serve patients. In 2018, the Arroyo Grande Community Hospital Foundation created the Volunteen Scholarship Fund to support these dedicated students as they begin their journey toward higher education.

The journey towards higher education can be a challenging one for students who have experienced hardships at an early age. The MaryEllen Locher Scholarship Fund at CHI Memorial Foundation in Chattanooga, Tennessee is a college scholarship program for children who have either lost a parent to breast cancer, have a parent who is a breast cancer survivor, or have a parent who is currently in treatment. Originally founded as an independent nonprofit, the program joined with CHI Memorial in January 2021 and this year will cross $1 million in scholarships awarded.

Scholarship programs make possible the pursuit of the future and, in the case of these awards, healing and the advancement of healors. Those listed above are representative of programs taking place across our ministry but they are in no way a comprehensive list of the ways in which our foundations invest in the future of individuals each and every day.