Donors, students celebrate scholarship success

Photo of Scholarship Luncheon

By Amanda E.H. Pritchard

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing celebrated donors and students at the first in-person Jean Riley Tomlinson Scholarship Luncheon since 2020. Uniting scholarship recipients with their donors offered students the chance to share their stories of how impactful receiving these scholarships is to their educations and lives.

Three standout students shared their stories at the luncheon, extending their gratitude to donors and emphasizing the many ways receiving scholarships has helped them to achieve their goals.

Gaby Romero, a Master of Science in Nursing student, who received the Jarman F. Lowder Endowed Scholarship in Nursing, is a graduate of the Accelerated Masters in Nursing Pathway and is enrolled in the inaugural cohort of the relaunched Nurse-Midwifery Pathway. While maintaining a 4.0 grade point average in the AMNP curriculum, she completed training to become a sexual assault nurse examiner at her local crisis center. Romero is currently training to become a childbirth educator and lactation consultant. During an experience volunteering with the Peace Corps in Rwanda working alongside a community midwife, she discovered her passion for maternal health and midwifery.

“My family and I are originally from Venezuela. We came to the States because I was premature and I needed more medical care,” Romero said. “I always wanted to do something that could help those in rural communities that don’t have access to medical care. That’s what led me to nursing. UAB was the perfect option for me because it’s close to rural communities and they have a lot of local and global partnerships as well.”

Honored to be a Jarman F. Lowder Scholarship recipient, Romero is grateful for this financial support.

“I just want to say thank you so much. It’s really allowed me to focus on the people I really want to help and be a better midwife in the future. Had I not received the scholarship I would’ve been so much more focused on trying to pay bills and not being able to do the work I want to do. I’m really passionate about improving maternal health in Alabama,” Romero said. “Scholarships really help students in this state who want to make a difference.”

Christopher Jones, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Honors Student and recipient of the Marie L. O’Koren School of Nursing Alumni Association Scholarship, shared the experiences that led him to the UAB School of Nursing. Jones is a first-generation college student who applied to just one university—UAB—because of its reputation of excellence.

Honored to be the recipient of this scholarship, Jones paid tribute to the School’s alumni.

“I have a tremendous respect and admiration for those who have come before me and helped pave the way for my educational journey,” Jones said. “I wanted to be a part of the positive impact on the nursing profession that the UAB School of Nursing has not only in Birmingham or Jefferson County, not just in Alabama or the United States, but the world.”

Jones thanked all the donors who generously invest in the UAB School of Nursing and credited them with helping make it a world class educational and research center.

Photo of Scholarship Luncheon

“Like Dr. O’Koren suggesting UAB’s colors of green and gold, I want to preserve the School of Nursing’s rich traditions,” Jones said. “I am so thankful to receive this scholarship. People investing in me instilled in me confidence and determination to care for patients with cardiothoracic complications at UAB. I’m excited to see where these experiences take me in the future.”

The final student speaker was Shmonica McCarroll, a BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice Pathway student who was awarded the Barbara and Emmet O’Neal Endowed Nursing Scholarship. McCarroll is specializing as a family nurse practitioner and graduates next year.

“I’m excited to start my career as a doctoral prepared family nurse practitioner and provide quality health care to families in need in urban and rural underserved communities,” McCarroll said. “Students like me will only bring their mission to fruition with your generosity.”

The youngest of seven children, McCarroll was inspired to become a nurse from her own experiences as a little girl. McCarroll is from Gainesville, Alabama where the nearest hospital was 60 miles away and was not equipped to handle her asthma exacerbation.

“Income should not marginalize or allow certain people to be forgotten. Growing up in a tight-knit community taught me the values of hard work, perseverance and giving to those in need. These values have shaped who I am today,” McCarroll said. “Since childhood I’ve been labeled as an old soul who loves to care for others. My overall goal is to offer comprehensive medical care, health coaching and fitness coaching through community wellness centers.”

McCarroll’s dad was wheelchair dependent, and the family would come to UAB for treatment.

“I want my alma mater to reflect the community I want to serve,” McCarroll said. “There’s a place for everyone at UAB—that’s what I love about this university.”

Expressing her gratitude to each donor for their investments in the next generation of future nurses, Dean Maria R. Shirey spoke to how meaningful each scholarship is to UAB School of Nursing students.

“On behalf of our students, faculty, patients and families whose lives are made better through the nurses that are educated at the School of Nursing, I want to thank each of our donors. Our students are able to provide compassionate and competent care to their patients because of the scholarships you all have made possible at the UAB School of Nursing,” Shirey said.

20 new scholarships benefiting students in the UAB School of Nursing have been established, pledged or fully funded since the last scholarship luncheon in 2020. Each of these new scholarships and donors were acknowledged and five endowed scholarship proclamations were presented to donors.

“It is your incredible generosity that we celebrate this afternoon,” Shirey said. “To all of our donors—thank you for giving so generously to help us educate and prepare the next generation of nurse leaders.”

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