One Thing Leads to Another: How an NCIN Grantee Has Used the Grant to Leverage Additional Funding for Scholarships

The saying goes that if you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.  With an expanding list of resources, from leadership and mentoring toolkits, to the pre-immersion program (PIP), New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) has been teaching its grantees to fish for six years.

Samuel Merritt University is one grantee that has been taking those lessons to heart. Last year, NCIN Liaison and Associate Professor Aara Amidi Nouri, was instrumental in leveraging the school’s history of receiving NCIN grants to receive a two-year, $150,000 grant (with a matching grant from the university) from The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) for a scholarship program modeled on NCIN.

Samuel Merritt launched the Academic Success Program (ASP) last spring. Like NCIN, the program is intended to help increase the diversity of the nursing workforce by providing support to students underrepresented in nursing. The monthly scholarships, available to students in the Scholars in Service Program (SISP) in the school of nursing, include four hours a week of tutoring provided by alumni who are RNs. Priority is given to hiring NCIN scholar alumni as tutors. They act not only as tutors, but also as mentors and role models to the students, and are paid $30 an hour.

The impetus for ASP was the high attrition rate of students of color in Samuel Merritt’s traditional BSN program, particularly in comparison with the accelerated BSN program, which has NCIN scholars in it. The benefits the NCIN scholars were receiving were making a significant difference in their performance.

“Almost every year, NCIN asks us to add a new component to our program and provides a toolkit to help us do that,” said Amidi Nouri. “When we first launched the PIP here at Samuel Merritt, we brought all the scholars to the Oakland campus and we used the toolkit and added more material on accessing databases in the library, using the right footnote style, and so on. The students felt they had a significant leg up on their classmates and it showed in their academic performance. There were also emerging as leaders in their class.”

The school of nursing already has a peer mentoring program and a free tutoring program, but the mentoring program doesn’t necessarily improve students’ academic achievement, and too many students don’t avail themselves of the tutoring program.“It’s one thing to recruit diverse students but if you don’t also graduate them, you’re not diversifying the workforce,” said Amidi Nouri. “Many students from underrepresented groups are older than their classmates and have families they must care for. That cuts into their studying time.”

She wrote a grant proposal for a scholarship program that included a stipend and mandatory tutoring for diverse SISP students, using her experience with NCIN to shape the program and to demonstrate why it would be successful.

In order to ensure that scholars receive the benefits of tutoring and develop good study habits, they are required to have a minimum number of hours of tutoring weekly. To retain the tutors, Samuel Merritt pays them an hourly wage. The four-hour-a-week requirement also ensure the tutors will actually earn that wage.  Having alumni tutors ensures that they can explain how the lessons taught in class apply to nursing.

“NCIN makes it clear that they want us to leverage additional grants,” said Amidi Nouri. “If we hadn’t had to meet the NCIN requirements, we wouldn’t have been able to leverage this and other funding.” 

Amidi Nouri has also used the NCIN grant to leverage additional funding from other sources for scholarships for underrepresented students. Among those are an internal Hope Scholarship program for all Health Sciences students, and scholarships from the Health Resources and Services Administration. The school of nursing has also used its experience with NCIN to expand the mentoring program and PIP to more students.