FHE Health’s Hope for Healing Scholarship committee has chosen eight finalists for the 2023-2024 award. You’ll get to meet each of these outstanding people below, but first, some fun facts about this year’s applicant pool:
- Once again, the competition was fierce: Over 470 people applied; 162 of them at the graduate level, 306 at the undergraduate level.
- Applicants represented over 146 different colleges, especially Baylor University, Northern Arizona University, and Pepperdine University.
- Our candidates’ academic fields were even more wide-ranging. We counted more than 160 majors and areas of study, with the largest concentration in Nursing, Psychology, and Social Work.
We count it a privilege to be able to introduce the extraordinary men and women who are this year’s undergraduate finalists….
- Mason Collie is enrolled at the University of Houston, where he co-founded the service and community outreach arm of the Cougars recovery program. Whether he is taking 12-step meetings to treatment centers, organizing sober tailgates at football games, or providing medical care in rural areas overseas, Collie credits his 12-step sponsor with challenging and inspiring him to live a life of service. Collie hopes to become a doctor and to specialize in addiction medicine.
- Lilybet Jones is from a community in rural North Carolina where “over 15 percent of the residents are below the federal poverty line” and there is “only one practicing psychologist” for “a population of 28,000 people.” Jones, who will attend the University of Georgia in the fall, wants to become a psychologist and provide much-needed mental health care to her community. As the president of a local community service group, KEY Club Pathfinders, she has helped organize multiple initiatives, including a food drive that raised $27,000 in just one day.
- Guillermo Marcelo Romero is a student in College of the Desert’s concurrent nursing program with Cal State San Bernardino. Born and raised in El Salvador, Romero has overcome multiple obstacles in his journey to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. His unconventional story has included living in a Buddhist temple, interning at an art gallery and writing retreat center, authoring two children’s books on mindfulness, and “a short stint for RuPaul’s Drag Race” as a talent wrangler.
- Taja Perez is majoring in psychology at Oregon State University. The first-generation Asian, Hispanic American experienced trauma and later inequity in her search for a culturally competent therapist whom she could afford. Eventually she found therapy and healing through “Meeting Point,” a sliding-scale clinic. After college, Perez would like to earn a doctoral degree and work for a clinic that, like Meeting Point, serves “communities most in need.”
The graduate finalists for this year’s scholarship are an equally impressive group….
- Lindsay Koncz is earning a M.A. degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Adams State University. Fluent in American Sign Language, she has been a volunteer interpreter in various settings. She also has extensive mental health training. Koncz worked to put herself through college and, as a restaurant server, learned crisis management techniques for intervening in tense situations. She hopes to serve as a counselor to the Deaf community, whose mental health needs often go unmet.
- Alessandra Lanza-Case is the first in her family to earn an advanced degree. She will begin studies in a clinical mental health counseling program in the fall, most likely at Westminster College (although she is still hearing back from other schools). As a private caretaker for a Vietnam veteran living with dementia, Lanza-Case listens to her client talk about his experiences of war and trauma, providing a safe space and empathetic ear. Through volunteer work as a digital crisis counselor for The Trevor Project, Lanza-Case is becoming an advocate for LGBTQ+ youth and their mental health needs.
- Manju Sathyapalan has been a nurse since 1998. 24 years after finishing nursing school in India, he is now earning a doctoral degree at the University of Cincinatti and plans to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. After a tragic mass shooting in the next-door town of Parkland, Florida, and “the forced seclusion” of the pandemic, Sathyapalan found a new mission—to study the effects of social isolation and be part of a “holistic” solution to mental health needs.
- Steven Shiel, a nursing student at Old Dominion University, has been a police officer, certified critical care nurse, clinical care specialist, and officer in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. He hopes to draw from his experience in these various professions to serve members of the military, veterans, and first responders—a “tragically underserved” population—as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.
The two winners of the 2023 Hope for Healing Scholarship, now in its fourth year, will be announced Monday, March 6. March 6 is also when the next application period will begin. (This year’s application period ran from March 15, 2022, until February 6, 2023.)