WRHCF scholarship recipients share stories, gratitude

WORTHINGTON -- Annually, the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation, Inc. (WRHCF) awards scholarships totaling $14,000 ($8,000 for LPN and RN students, with $6,000 for other health care professional fields of study) to students in the region.

WORTHINGTON -- Annually, the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation, Inc. (WRHCF) awards scholarships totaling $14,000 ($8,000 for LPN and RN students, with $6,000 for other health care professional fields of study) to students in the region.

Here’s a sampling of what some 2016 WRHCF scholarship recipients had to say about their educational and career paths, and how the funds are benefiting them:

Miriam Ongeta, LPN: “I appreciate the financial help I received from the foundation. I’m so glad they have a partnership with the college. The money helped me focus on my studies so I could prepare for the licensing exam, and I was successful the first time. Thank you for this help to start my new career.”


Ongeta is employed as an LPN in Worthington.

Alex Ochiengi, LPN: “I want to say thank you for the scholarship. I used it to pay for summer classes and my NCLEX (nursing exam) and nursing license. Thank you for the partnership with Minnesota West. It supports students and allows for financial help.”

Ochiengi is employed as an LPN in Worthington.

Cyrus Nyakundi, LPN: Thank you to the WRHCF and the college for offering me this scholarship. I was able to pay for my summer preceptorship tuition costs with it. I was working minimally so I could concentrate on my classes. This was my first scholarship, and I am so appreciative of this opportunity.”

Nyakundi is employed as an LPN in Worthington.


Cindy Gravenhof, LPN: “I graduated in May from MWCTC, and I used the scholarship toward my tuition. I’d been a stay-at-home mom (my husband is a farmer and we have five children) for years, but I wanted to have a job in town and I really enjoy caring for people, so being a nurse seemed like the right choice.

“I passed my boards in June and started working in July. I really like the work I’m doing and I enjoy being able to visit with the hospice patients and their families as I help provide really good quality care. I appreciate the scholarship very much; when I got the letter saying I’d received it, it was wonderful.

“We’re here forever, so this will be put to good use right here in Worthington.”

Gravenhof is employed as an LPN at Sunset Hospice Cottage, Worthington.

Christa Lee Castaneda, R.N.: “I did my life ‘backwards;’ I’m 33 and have seven kids, ages 4 to 15, so after my youngest was born, I went to school to start earning my degree.


“I always wanted to be a nurse, but it was harder when my kids were all so young to be in school. The scholarship came toward the end of my RN program, so I’ve used it towards some tuition and for board exam fees, plus to help pay for study prep materials.

“Most definitely, I’m grateful for it. I worked as a CNA (certified nursing assistant) since I was 18, and with seven kids, it’s great to be paid more than minimum wage. It takes a lot of patience to be a nurse, so if you’re short-tempered, it’s probably not a good job for you.

“My dream is to become a labor/delivery nurse, or to work in a NICU. My husband, Jaime Castaneda, and I are now expecting an eighth child next spring, so we plan to stay in the area, working and raising our family. The WRHCF scholarship has helped me achieve my educational goals.”

Castaneda is employed by a Minneapolis-based pool nursing company, with work assignments primarily at Worthington’s Crossroads and South Shore Care Centers.

Hanna Bosma, R.N.: “I grew up in the Rushmore area, graduated from Southwest Christian High School, and am pretty much a traditional student. I’m 22, and I have two two-year degrees -- a liberal arts degree and an associate’s degree in nursing, both from MWCTC.

“The scholarship allowed me to focus on my studies rather than worry about my finances, and I didn’t have to work as much to pay for school. I’m also applying some of the funds toward my four-year degree. This fall I’m taking a class at MWCTC, then I’m going to finish my bachelor’s degree in nursing at MSU-Mankato.

“I love being a nurse -- I really, really enjoy it, and feel this is my calling. I’m intrigued by health care and how the body and medications work, and I thought it would be a good area for me to work in. My own experiences with routine health care, and caring for my grandmas, inspired me to want to give back and pass on a happy smile to everyone I can benefit with my help.”

Bosma is employed as an R.N. on the medical/surgical floor at Sanford Worthington Medical Center.

Kayla Pineda, R.N.: “I’m currently enrolled in a master of science nursing program through Walden University. It will have taken me about two years altogether when I’m finished, and I’m in my last quarter.

“When I’m done, I’ll have earned a master’s degree and I’ll be a family nurse practitioner. I’m 33, and I graduated from Tracy High School before earning an associate’s degree in nursing at MWCTC. I worked as an LPN for five years, then as an R.N., and a few years later I started working on the master’s degree.

“The last five years I’ve worked at the Sanford ob/gyn clinic, where I’ll be completing the clinical hours required for my degree.

“I’ve always been interested in being the best at whatever I planned to do; my grandfather had a doctorate in education and taught at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, so he was the driving force behind me getting the best education possible for whatever career path I chose.

“When I started working as a nurse, I had no intention of going this far, but that was 10 years ago, and with more experience and so many good nurses and providers to guide me along the way, I thought, ‘I could do this.’ There have been many good people in my life who encouraged me to just go for it.

“The foundation scholarship will help me with tuition, books and the expenses associated with my certification test. It’s expensive to go to school, but I look at it as an investment -- but any help is always appreciated. I’m married and have a 4-year-old son.”

Pineda will be employed as a family nurse practitioner at the Sanford Worthington Clinic upon completion of her master’s degree.

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