Posted on Mar 22, 2018

Three Doctoral Nursing Students Receive $10,000 Cole Scholarships

Three Doctoral Nursing Students Receive $10,000 Cole Scholarships

Three USF College of Nursing doctoral students have each received $10,000 toward completing their Doctor in Nursing Practice (DNP) degree thanks to a scholarship aimed at helping future advanced practice nurses.

DNP students Danielle Horstman, Vanessa Belcher, and Gianna Constantine were recently awarded the Hazel and Herschel Cole Scholarship, a one-time need- and merit-based grant for nursing students pursuing a doctoral degree.

Set up in 2014, the Hazel and Herschel Cole Scholarship endowment hands out a $10,000 scholarship to three DNP students each year. Since its inception, there have been a dozen recipients.

All three described the scholarship as life-changing stipends that will go a long way in helping to pay for their tuition to finish their degrees.

Constantine, who is in her second semester of the DNP program, said when she read the email about winning the scholarship, she started to cry.

“I was shocked,” she said. “I honestly had to read it three times to believe it, because I didn’t think it was real. I was really happy, because I have never received a scholarship in my entire life.”

The North Carolina native earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing at USF. As an undergraduate pre-nursing student, she volunteered at Florida Hospital and that eye-opening experience gave her the resolve to pursue nursing.

“It’s a tough job, but I like doing it. Watching people progress, from being at their worst state to being at their best state, is really rewarding,” Constantine said. “It’s not always a happy time, but it definitely made me want to go into it more.”

Constantine credits her undergraduate nursing professors for motivating and inspiring her to continue in the nursing profession.

“The teachers at this college — I have never had any type of professors as amazing as they were, honestly,” she said.

The scholarship is managed by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, a local philanthropic organization that oversees donors, grants and endowments for a five-county region.

Dr. Herschel Cole (Photo provided by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay)

Barbara Ann Cole started the scholarship endowment to honor her parents, Dr. Herschel and Hazel Cole. When Dr. Herschel Cole moved to Tampa in 1939, he became the only orthopedic specialist in the city for many years. Hazel Cole was a school teacher.

Hazel Cole (Photo provided by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay)

Barbara Ann Cole, who worked for Tampa Electric Company for 33 years, was her parents’ caregiver. When they passed away, she created a scholarship that blends education and health care, and addresses the nationwide shortage of nurses, as a way to commemorate their legacy.

“Barbara Ann Coles’ message to the [inaugural] recipients of the scholarship…was to always be honest and genuine with patients. ‘They’ll see the truth in your eyes,’ she told them. Barbara was of the highest integrity, and we are honored she trusted us to preserve her legacy,” said Marlene Spalten, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.

Scholarship recipient Belcher, a mother of two, said the award could not have come at a better time. She views the gift as a divine blessing.

She is grateful, because the scholarship makes her dream of becoming a nurse practitioner a reality. She won’t have to worry about trying to work overtime at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in between semesters to help pay for tuition, she said.

Belcher, who is slated to graduate in August 2019, earned her associate’s degree in Texas and her bachelor’s degree in nursing from St. Petersburg College.

“It’s such a blessing. I’ve been going through a lot of little things that have been like, barrier, barrier, and barrier. The Lord is taking care of me, and I have been able to focus on what’s important. The choices that I make now will affect myself and my children long-term,” she said.

Belcher said she received the scholarship news while checking her school email before a PTA meeting at her son’s school after a long day at work.

“I read it, and I read it again. And I was like, ‘Am I reading this right?’ And I broke down in tears. I went outside and said, ‘Thank you, Lord,’ ” she said.

Horstman, a DNP student who just started her second semester within the program’s dual oncology and adult-gerontology primary care concentration, said she couldn’t believe the scholarship was real. She had to call to confirm it wasn’t a mistake.

“First of all, I was like, ‘What? Wait a second. No way,’ and then I had to read it again,” she said.

Horstman, who works at Largo Medical Center, said she is thankful for the award, which will assist her in paying her out-of-state tuition.

“It’s a huge help. I’ve been having to work full-time and go to school full-time. I feel like I can focus more on school,” she said.

Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing