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Arizona Lottery awards three nursing students $50,000 worth of scholarships

The scholarship aims to create more nurses in order who will help underserved communities

Edson Lottery Scholarship

Arizona Lottery Deputy Director Sherri Zendri (left) and Judith Karshmer, dean of ASU's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, hold a check for $50,000 that will go toward Edson College scholarships on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021.

In collaboration with the Arizona Lottery, three Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation students were awarded a combined total of $50,000 in sponsorship funds last month.

The Arizona Lottery organized the scholarship to assist in funding the winners' tuition at ASU. The goal is to produce more professionals in the nursing field for Arizona counties with underserved communities.

Graduate student Adriana Ordonez received $30,000 in sponsorship funds; undergraduate students Ty Velasquez and Rhiannon Smithson both received $10,000 toward their programs.

All of the funds were collected as part of Arizona Lottery's Gives Back program, which utilizes money that would otherwise be used for television and media advertisements and instead "uses them on nonprofits that give back to our community," said John Gilliland, a public information officer for Arizona Lottery. 

"It's a $400,000 program each year," Gilliland said. "It's something that allows us to really reach out to the community and tell our story as the lottery by helping them tell their story while serving the community."

The presentation of the awards took place in the lobby of the Health North building on the Downtown Phoenix campus. The three award recipients were unable to attend the event, so while faculty attended in person, a virtual setup was used to accommodate the winning students.

"Although none of the individuals could be in person, the event was definitely a success," said Robin Krause, senior director of strategic marketing and communication for the Edson College. "All three recipients clearly demonstrated why they were so deserving of the award."

Velasquez, a public health nurse working with the Navajo County and a nursing student, sees the opportunistic potential of the scholarship funds. For her, receiving the scholarship is "a huge piece of the burden that is removed."

Being half Apache, Velasquez sees Whiteriver, Arizona, as her home. Her mother, who was also a nurse, cared for her family and demonstrated both hard work and care by putting Velasquez through school. Her connection to the community and the inspiration she derives from her mother are what push her to serve others.

Because of her connection with her heritage, she's interested in working for an Indian Health Services hospital, which is located in Whiteriver.

"Nursing brings independence, education brings independence," Velasquez said. "When people are in the hospital, when they’re at their sickest moments, it's nice to have someone there you know that you trust that is going to be able to care for you."

Ordonez, who had Leukemia at age 12, associates her goal to work as a community health nurse with the nurses who aided her when she was undergoing cancer treatment. She currently works as a community health worker.

Smithson found inspiration during her service as an EMT from her colleagues, driving her to eventually earn a biomedical degree and apply to a medical school. She occasionally takes shifts in the emergency department in order to bring financial stability.

After reaching out to Ordonez and Smithson, The State Press was unable to speak with the recipients due to scheduling conflicts.

The Arizona Lottery's Gives Back program is set to continue throughout the organization's entire fiscal year. 

"I suggest that people keep their eyes and ears open ... we're going to be sponsoring amazing organizations that help so many Arizonans in every walk of life do things that they would otherwise not be able to do," said Gilliland. 

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