EMPOWER Scholarships

The EMPOWER (Encourage Minority Participation in Occupations with Emphasis on Rehabilitation) Scholarship, administered by Courage Kenny Foundation, encourages and supports ethnically diverse students who are pursuing a career in a medical or rehabilitation field.

The scholarship is made possible by a generous gift from the David M. Hersey Endowment Fund of the Courage Kenny Foundation.

Applicants must identify how they will use their education and training and demonstrate their interest in rehabilitation. Selection is based on the applicant’s stated intentions, past achievements, need, and graduation ranking.

2020 EMPOWER scholarship winners

The annual EMPOWER Scholarship encourages and supports ethnically diverse students who are pursuing a career in a medical or rehabilitation field. The scholarship is made possible by a gift from the David M. Hersey Endowment Fund of the Courage Kenny Foundation. The 2020 recipients are Fatima A. Garza-Ramon and Jou Vang.

Jou Vang

Following the Viet Nam war, Jou and her family came to the United States searching for a better life after spending time in a refugee camp in Thailand.  

Growing up, Jou said that her parents taught her to help those less fortunate, “…because,”she said, “everyone has different fates.”

Jou turned to volunteer service as a way to help others.  She has been a volunteer at the NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center since the fall of 2019. The clinic serves diverse and low-income communities providing insurance assistance, cancer screening and supplemental nutrition.   As a volunteer, Jou works as a Food Shelf Aide, School Health Screener and as a Women’s Cancer Screening Guide.   She has provided vision and hearing screenings with children at Hmong International Academy, and helped to explain the cancer screening and procedures during the Women’s Cancer Screening events.  Jou’s Hong/English bilingual skills are of great value to those who use NorthPoint Center services.

Jou’s volunteer experiences led to a passion for nursing, and a goal to serve low-income and diverse communities.  “Nursing,” Jou said, “will allow me to not only provide quality care but also advocate for the community to bridge the gap of health disparity.”

In addition to her studies in nursing and her volunteer work, Jou holds jobs in two healthcare facilities–one in a clinical support role, and another as a Personal Care Assistant.  She also has multiple family responsibilities as the oldest of eight children.  A faculty member and mentor with St Catherine’s Baccalaureate Nursing Program said of Jou, “As a first generation college student, Jou works to balance her Hmong culture with the western culture that she also belongs.”  She added, “As a student in the Nursing Program, Jou is diligent with her work, is notable for her relationships with her peers, and demonstrates excellent communication skills.”

This fall, Jou begins her last year in the nursing program at St. Catherine University.   The EMPOWER Scholarship will help her focus on her studies and to worry less about finances as she turns her energy toward graduation, and as Jou said, “…allow me to achieve my goals and turn my dreams into reality.”

GarzaRamon

“Giving service is like a graceful overarching tree, with its branches and leaves giving life with every breath.” These are the words Fatima used to describe how she views the many ways her volunteerism has provided her to grow through service.

Service is a huge component of Fatima’s personality and accomplishments. While giving her time and efforts to many causes, she has also excelled as a high school and college student.  While attending Burnsville High School (BHS) and simultaneously taking classes towards an AA degree at Normandale College, she was on the BHS honor roll for four years, and the Dean’s list at Normandale, and also won many honorable awards in academia, music, and athletics.

Fatima’s numerous hours of service have been widespread and in-depth including:

  • EL Student Tutoring 
  • Feed My Starving Children
  • BHS Giving Garde
  • Books for Africa
  • Better World Books Program
  • Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society service officer (coordinated blood drives and fund raisers)
  • Honors in Action project team (“Reducing the Stigmatism Associated with the Opioid Crisis” – conceived of the project, provided in-depth research and worked with community partners to raise awareness and help in support of recovery efforts)

The BHS Community Education Youth Service Coordinator, in recommending Fatima for the EMPOWER Scholarship said, “In my experience with her she is not only a responsible and capable young lady, she possesses compassion, empathy, and a sheer devotion to helping others within her community.”

Although accepted by many colleges and universities, Fatima has decided to attend the University of Minnesota, College of Biological Sciences. Fatima’s Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society Advisor shared that, “Fatima hopes to study Biochemistry and minor in Spanish, Public Health, or Neuroscience with the intention of attending medical school to become a pediatrician.  She wants to connect the bridge between doctors and Hispanic patients as native language communication provides a better medical experience especially during times of stress.” The EMPOWER Scholarship (will)”, in Fatima’s words, “…immensely help me focus on my pre-med track by reducing the struggle of financial cost.”