(above left to right) During an on-campus networking event at Santa Fe Community College, LANL Scholars Francelia Martinez (accounting) and Amy Ketcheson (engineering) discuss balancing college courses, work and family with LANL Scholars Ambassador Wyetta Bradley (nursing). Mingma Sherpa shares her challenges with navigating the complex nursing major, testing and building confidence in speaking English, her second language.
Wyetta Bradley cried through writing her scholarship essay as it triggered flashbacks of traumatic experiences and challenged her to acknowledge her own achievements as a veteran of the U.S. Army, a nursing assistant, certified medical assistant, hospital unit clerk, homecare provider, family caregiver and single parent. When she learned that she received the Career Pathways Scholarship, her reaction was full of shock and emotion.
“You picked me? You decided that I was worthy? I felt overwhelmed and blessed and grateful. It really gave me a sense of pride. I had to look at the fact that someone who didn’t know me, who just read my story believed in me and was going to give me a chance,” she said.
The Career Pathways Scholarship (formerly Regional College/Returning Student Scholarship) provides $1,500 renewable awards for two-year undergraduate degrees as wells as trade and professional certifications to students with a high school diploma or equivalency and the drive to succeed. Most Career Pathways recipients are nontraditional students seeking to change their career or gain meaningful training for further job opportunities.
LANL Foundation Scholarship Program Manager Mike Ammerman acknowledges that Wyetta exhibits the top qualities for this award. The scholarship is intended for those who are focused and determined, with a clear vision of the career or trade they intend to pursue. They are highly motivated to gain the skills and credentials needed to enter the workforce and improve the quality of life for themselves, their family and their community.
“Wyetta has served others and her country, established herself as a leader on campus and has a track record of overcoming obstacles to pursue her educational goals,” said Ammerman.
The Allied Health Degree Wyetta is working toward at Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) provides the prerequisites for her larger goal: a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). She plans to complete the Associate’s Degree in 2020, then start the nursing program.
“That’s my calling. I’ve been taking care of family members and people since I was three,” Wyetta said. “I think it’s just in my spirit. And I don’t have to think when I’m taking care of people. Something else takes over. I love the beauty of that, and my life is richer.”
(Left to right) LANL Foundation Scholarship Program Manager Mike Ammerman, Francelia Martinez, Wyetta Bradley, Amy Ketcheson, LANL Foundation Scholarship Program Associate Sarah Gissinger and Mingma Sherpa
Meeting Students’ Needs Beyond Money
The road back to formal education for Wyetta and other Career Pathways LANL Scholars can be challenging. Once in school, balancing classes with work and family presents a new level of difficulty. As the overall LANL Scholars program has grown in size and scope, so has the opportunity to answer students’ needs beyond financial support.
In 2019, Triad National Security, LLC, awarded an education-based grant to the LANL Foundation. In addition to increasing needs-based scholarships and effectively doubling the Career Pathways scholarship fund, the new funding helped to establish LANL Scholars on-campus pilot programs at three colleges where a high concentration of scholarship winners are in attendance. University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and SFCC were each set up to employ current scholarship recipients as LANL Scholars Ambassadors to run the programs.
The program aims to develop a sense of community and belonging among scholars, provide student success and career-readiness resources and create opportunities for them to support one another in pursuit of academic, personal and professional goals. Each campus is shaping its own program with unique needs and priorities defined by the ambassador and scholars. Common elements across campuses may be used to replicate the program and offer broader support at other schools.
Wyetta was chosen as SFCC’s Ambassador due to her leadership and compassion, as well as her interest in connecting two-year degree students with future four-year degree programs and colleges. This fall, she began her new role by assisting students with the scholarship application process. Her gift is using her own experience to help applicants break through fears to write a heartfelt essay about why they are applying and what sets them apart from others.
The next step will be to conduct outreach, meet with fellow LANL Scholars one-on-one, direct them to campus resources and connect them with each other for social events, community service opportunities and degree-specific collaboration. She’ll also set up workshops, with topics such as wellness, effective notetaking and how to balance the demands of being a student, parent and/or employee. Wyetta will continue to offer moral support to her peers, emulating the coaching she received from SFCC staff when outside challenges intruded on her studies.
“You’re building a family. You’re building support,” Wyetta said. “You’re building a community of people that you trust, that you can lean on, depend on.”
Through an engaged LANL Scholars alumni body, the Scholarship Program staff and Advisory Committee seek to build a network that supports students in college and offers future support through mentoring and internships. There is also a goal to see more LANL Scholars contribute back financially to the scholarship fund and serve on the committee for program guidance, student outreach and selections. A new online platform (LANLscholars.org) is a tool to connect and grow this LANL Scholars community, now with more than 1700 members.
“It’s a measure of the success of the program when LANL Scholars remain connected and stay involved,” said Ammerman. “It’s also assurance to our donors that their investment worked.”
Wyetta uses team-building activities to break the ice, get to know LANL Scholars and allow them to get to know one another.
LANL Foundation Scholarship Program Associate Sarah Gissinger introduces the LANL Scholars networking platform.