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A Program Dedicated to Creating Diverse Health Workforces

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Attaining a college degree and becoming a social worker was always the plan for Maria Vormestrand. However, life happened – marriage, kids and a career – so she had to press pause on that dream of hers. Fast forward 30 years later, and Maria is a student once again, attending Cankdeska Cikana Community College (CCCC) in Fort Totten, North Dakota.

The path back to the classroom wasn’t easy. To afford her tuition, Maria spent her first year at CCCC balancing a full-time job and her schooling.

That all changed when Maria received a scholarship from the American Indian College Fund to help her pay for college. The American Indian College Fund received a grant from the United Health Foundation as part of the Diverse Scholars Initiative. This allowed her to fully focus on her education instead of trying to balance both work and school in order to afford tuition.

The Diverse Scholars Initiative aims to create a more diverse workforce and bring unique perspectives to the health care industry by providing grants to different minority scholarship organizations. According to a report by the Institute of Medicine, diversity in health workforces can lead to greater health care access, increased patient satisfaction and improved problem-solving skills.

From the program’s inception in 2007, the United Health Foundation has provided more than $18 million in funding to support nearly 2,400 scholarships. In addition to the financial aid component of the Diverse Scholars Initiative, it also provides scholars with mentors, internship programs and assistance in finding a professional career post-graduation. For colleges like CCCC, the financial aid opportunities can open doors for students.

“Like all the tribal colleges and universities, CCCC does amazing work with limited resources. Our student success stories demonstrate that they do ‘start here, go anywhere,’ becoming engineers, nurses, teachers and other professional roles to serve our community,” said Dr. Cynthia Lindquist, President of Cankdeska Cikana Community College.

Like Maria, participating students of the Diverse Scholars Initiative are passionate, hardworking and eager to give back to their communities. Many plan to work in underserved communities, tackling health challenges that have a huge impact on low-income and minority communities.

Maria is on track to graduate from community college next semester with plans to finish her degree at University of North Dakota-Grand Forks. From there, she’ll begin her long-awaited career in social work with an emphasis on substance abuse to help underserved individuals in her own community.

To be eligible for the Diverse Scholars Initiative, scholars must demonstrate financial need, the pursuit of a degree that will lead to a career as a primary care health professional and a commitment to work in underserved communities. Click here to learn more about the Diverse Scholars Initiative.