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Blazing a New Path

Blazing a New Path

Posted: 03.11.21

Aaron is originally from Prince George’s County Maryland and a Bishop McNamara High School graduate who had his sights set on a career in medicine. This past year he became a Central Scholarship recipient when he received the Isaac and Catherine Hecht Scholarship fund award to support his doctorate studies in Nurse Anesthesiology at Johns Hopkins University. He told us, “The generous contribution from Central Scholarship helped me pursue my dreams of being an anesthesia provider by alleviating some of my financial burdens and allowing me more time to focus on studying.”

We recently caught up with Aaron to see how his year was going.

What is your favorite part about being in school?

One of my favorite parts of school is the camaraderie between the classmates who share the same academic journey.  My program is three years long. Simply put, it is a marathon, not a sprint. During school, you meet new people from various backgrounds who happen to share the same career path. There is a sense of solidarity when 20 students partake in the same rigorous educational quest.  We support each other through the challenge and, in many cases, form long term friendships. Despite continuous reading, all-night study sessions, and sleep deprivation that can accompany anesthesia programs, I find it essential to cherish the journey because it is an opportunity many do not have.

What is the biggest challenge you have experienced at school, and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge as a student throughout the years has been organization and planning.  During my undergraduate studies, I noticed this was an area I could improve.  Before starting graduate school, I made this a top priority.  I was able to overcome this with the aid of technology advancement and application development over the years. Today, applications allow me to create a schedule, set alerts, and prioritize using my phone, tablet, or laptop. It also makes for a paperless school experience, which fits my learning preference. I was never a fan of printing lectures and carrying binders. I was surprised but pleased to see how much the student experience had changed since I graduated from nursing school seven years ago.

How has life changed for you during the COVID-19 outbreak personally and academically?

Personally, COVID-19 has hindered me from attending events and socializing outside the home but has led to spending more time with close family members, which I have enjoyed.

Academically, the anesthesia program’s first year is designed to be 95% online, with 5% on-campus immersions for one of our courses. This immersion was changed to online due to the pandemic, which had its advantages and disadvantages. Being able to attend class in your own home is convenient, but virtual simulations have their limitations. Fortunately, this course was not an anesthesia course. In May 2021, we are expected to be on campus for course work and clinical residency until completing the program in 2023.

Do you have any advice for students who are about to start their higher education career?

Financially, I would advise students to search diligently for scholarship and grant opportunities. There are many organizations such as central scholarship and others committed to helping students achieve fulfilling careers by providing support.

Academically, I would certainly recommend investing in a tablet to go paperless. The convenience of having all your course-related content, lectures, planner, schedule in one place is a huge benefit.

Mentally, I would advise students to take personal days to avoid burn out. Personally, after every exam, I take the day off to recharge, which gives my mind a break. As I said, school is a marathon, not a sprint and mental well-being gets you to the finish line.

 What do you have planned for the future?

After graduation, I look forward to positively impacting others’ lives by practicing in a hospital system that sees a diverse surgical population. I also intend to engage in research to improve health-related outcomes and advocate for the profession to increase access to high-quality and cost-efficient anesthesia providers.

Given the overwhelming underrepresentation of minorities in nurse anesthesia, I am compelled to contribute to the profession’s further diversification. Although awareness has improved over the years, there are still obscurities amongst non-healthcare professionals. Personally, the majority of people in the community I am from are unfamiliar with nurse anesthesia.  In fact, in the community where I am from, there is an obsolete outlook that nursing is feminine and inferior to medicine. I was often looked down upon for entering what my peers deemed an “unworthy profession” for men. I believe such misconceptions are the reasons why black males make up such a small percentage of the nursing demographic. However, I have never been one to follow the crowd but to lead it. Members of my community are missing opportunities due to this parochial view, and I intend to rectify this to improve diversity in the nursing profession.

We’re thankful to have the opportunity to catch up with Aaron  and see how Central Scholarship is able to help in his educational journey. Learn how you can make a difference and help other students remove financial barriers and build bright futures with higher education.

Piggy Bank surrounded by coins

Thinking About College Financial Aid

Posted: 10.01.20

It’s that time of year where many students are beginning to think about financing their future college education. Central Scholarship offers a College Cash workshop every year that focuses on teaching students and their families about college affordability. Stay tuned for upcoming College Cash dates in 2021, but in the meantime here are some of our top questions attendees typically ask

Q: What is a financial aid package?

A: A financial aid package is generated by your college or university to illustrate how the cost of school will be paid for, including things like tuition, room and board, and books. Financial aid comes from four sources: the federal government, the state government, your school, and private organizations like Central Scholarship.

Q: Is financial aid “free money,” or do I need to pay it back?

A: Often it is both. Colleges do not have to list loans separately in your financial aid package, so it can be very confusing. If you are confused about what is a loan (money you do have to pay back) and what is a scholarship or grant (money you don’t have to pay back), you should contact your school’s financial aid office and ask them to walk you through it and explain in detail what is and isn’t a loan.

Q: What’s the deal with loans? Should I use them to help pay for school?

A: If possible, you should avoid loaning money to help pay for school. In addition to the initial amount of money you loan, you will have to pay back something called “interest,” which is a percentage of the initial amount of money that is added on over the years it will take you to re-pay. Basically, you will have to pay back more than what you borrowed, and it adds up! That being said, many students do not have a choice but to borrow money to help pay for school.

Luckily, Central Scholarship has an interest-free loan program to help you pay! What you borrow is exactly what you pay back – there is 0% interest on our student loans. You can read more about that program here.

Q: How do I access financial aid for college?

A: First thing’s first: you need to complete your FAFSA to access almost all forms of financial aid. If you are applying with Central Scholarship, you can apply with us between January 1st and the first Monday in April every year via our website. If you are interested in Maryland state financial aid, you can browse through their different scholarships and their corresponding requirements and deadlines on their website. Central Scholarship also encourages you to call your school directly and ask them if there is a separate process for applying for scholarships with them.


Dezmond Covington: A Vibrant Voice in the Baltimore Community

Posted: 09.23.19

In 1964, Andre De Shields won a financial award from Central Scholarship as a senior at Baltimore City College. The scholarship allowed him to pursue music which eventually led him to Broadway. In 2019, he won a Tony Award for his performance in Hadestown.

Almost two generations later, in 2019, Dezmond Covington, a senior and a member of the Morgan State University Choir, performed for De Shields and an audience of Central Scholarship supporters. It was a momentous experience providing a glimpse of the talent that has been coursing through the veins of Central Scholarship for generations.

Dezmond Covington has been a Central Scholar since 2016. Thanks to the generous support of our donors, he has been awarded $15,000 to help fund his education. Since 2016 Covington has become an RA at MSU and was recently inducted into the Morgan State University Chapter of Collegiate 100 Organization, an organization focused on empowering African American youth.

Dezmond attributes his tenacity and passion for education to his mother, “All of the encouragement she has given me for so long to push past being mediocre had finally stuck,” he said. “She wanted me to know what true, self-made success looked and felt like.”

We’re honored to support such impressive students like Dezmond on their journey to success. Hopefully, in 50 years, a scholar will be performing for him at a Central Scholarship event!

Sometimes All You Need is a Vote of Confidence

Posted: 05.23.19

Dr. Promise Olomo was the first Central Scholarship alumni to present at Bagels with Jerry, our quarterly meet-and-greet breakfast series, which took place on April 17, 2019. His story is as compelling as it is inspirational, and the attendees loved hearing about his path to personal and professional success.

When Olomo came to the US from Nigeria, he struggled to afford food and clothing, much less an education. He had to drop out of college the first time around because he couldn’t afford the $50 deposit for room and board. His Resident Life Director told him, “In my 35 years of administration, I’ve never seen a student as poor as yourself.” When he heard that, Olomo’s stomach dropped (and then so did his enrollment). He lived with friends and worked odd jobs for three years until he decided to give his education another shot. He put his first semester costs at Prince George’s Community College on his credit card. He went to school Monday through Friday and worked 32 hours over the weekend (7am-11pm Saturdays and Sundays) to make ends meet.

He decided to look for scholarship opportunities to offset the cost of his education. At Bagels with Jerry, Dr. Olomo spoke about how much it meant to him to receive the award from Central Scholarship. “The scholarship was validation that someone believed in me. That made such a difference.” He went on to say, “Some people have to study three or four times harder than the average student. You can imagine how difficult it is for them to struggle with financial stress while trying to excel in school. When they’re awarded a scholarship, it sends the message that someone has faith in what they’re doing, and it motivates them not to give up.”

Dr. Olomo went on to receive his Ph.D. in Administration of Anesthesia. While studying at Johns Hopkins University, he made donations to Central Scholarship to pay it forward to future recipients. “It blew me away that the people from this organization took a chance on a stranger. You had no idea what I was capable of, and yet, you believed in me. I am forever grateful. This is my family, my community now.”

We couldn’t be prouder of Dr. Promise Olomo. We are honored to have him as a member of the Central Scholarship family. Stay tuned for updates from the next Bagels with Jerry in a few months!

Dicheaker reminds us its never too late to pursue your goals!

Posted: 03.04.19

When Dicheaker was 37 years old she decided to go back to school. Every decision she makes is for her children to show them “regardless  of what you go through you can still push forward and become anything you want.”  She enrolled in a patient care technician program that set her up for a career working in settings such as hospitals and health care agencies to perform tasks like drawing blood and administering other medical tests.  Dicheaker was so successful in her patient care technician program that she didn’t stop there with her education. She enrolled in a respiratory therapy program that would train her to work with patients who have chronic breathing conditions. Once she completed this program, Dicheaker knew “things were really rolling and she could do this.”  Central Scholarship and Dicheaker have played a big part in each other’s lives. We helped push her forward by financially funding her education and she inspires us to keep growing our career training scholarships.

Meet Alina

Posted: 09.06.18

Central Scholarship met Alina back in 2010 as she was aspiring to become a pharmacist. As of May 2018, we are proud to share she has graduated with a Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of Maryland, School of Pharmacy and is well on her way to achieving her goals. When you meet Alina it is hard not to notice her drive. She was born in Ukraine and moved to Maryland at the age of five. While her parents struggled financially at times, they always instilled the value of education in Alina.

With her laser-sharp academic determination she has taken advantage of every opportunity that has come her way and has excelled in the classroom. While in school she sought leadership opportunities, pursued competitive internships, and remembered to have fun too! Today, she is completing her first year of pharmacy residency at the University of Virginia Health System.

Alina’s academic journey intersected with several Central Scholarship donors, who at different points supported her through eight years of education.  In addition to interest-free loans, she received funding from the Lessans Family Scholarship and the Mary M. and Benjamin M. Rubin Scholarship for Women. She will be the first to tell you that her scholarship providers made pursuing her dreams a reality, but we also know Alina’s intelligence, determination, and resiliency were a big part.

Shannon Wu, December 2017 Scholar of the Month

Meet Shannon – December 2017 Scholar of the Month

Posted: 12.07.17

Shannon Wu is pursuing a PhD in Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Shannon is specializing in Informatics and Health Services Delivery and plans to graduate in May of 2019. Shannon was especially drawn to the Baltimore region due to the proximity to the policy arena in Washington, DC, as well as the opportunity to learn firsthand the struggles of obtaining adequate healthcare from populations in Baltimore.

After graduation from Princeton University in 2013, Shannon began her career as a Senior Consultant with IBM. Shannon credits her experience there with motivating her to understand and direct the transformation of health information technology. In her own words, “My time at IBM provided me a solid foundation in informatics and data infrastructure in the pharmaceutical industry, but I did not understand how information and data could be transferred safely and used by providers to improve care for patients. I saw the dynamic technological shift occur in one private sector of healthcare but realized that other institutions such as small medical practices or safety-net providers were given limited policy guidance and financial incentives to invest in technological advancements. A large digital divide was beginning to occur within the healthcare field, and I became eager to explore ways to heal this divide systematically and methodologically.”

Shannon is a recipient of the Hal Cohen Endowed Scholarship at Central Scholarship. CareFirst established the fund to honor the incredible legacy of Dr. Cohen, a renowned health care economist. The fund helps students pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees in healthcare policy, healthcare financing, or economics.

In addition to her formal studies, Shannon meets weekly with an elderly couple in Baltimore who are dependent on welfare and live in an underserved neighborhood of the city. Through these home visits Shannon has been able to see firsthand how the healthcare and social welfare system impacts families, especially the elderly and other particularly vulnerable populations.