TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College nursing instructor Linda Walter spends hours on the phone at the beginning of each semester.
She calls the Father Fred Foundation, Love in the Name of Christ and other local social service and outreach organizations on behalf of her students.
“Sometimes it’s a stethoscope or a pair of shoes. It’s heat. It’s food. They just don’t have the money,” Walter said.
Walter has been teaching at NMC for 24 years and recalls story after story of students who struggled to make it through the nursing program, and not because of poor grades.
One student had her car window smashed and more than $200 worth of books stolen off the seat. Another missed crucial exams because she couldn’t afford child care. Some students find the economic barriers are too much to overcome and drop out. That’s the worst-case scenario, Walter said.
“Many of the students just seem to fall through the cracks,” she said.
Nursing faculty and alumni are working with the NMC Foundation to change that.
They’ve created a fund called the Barbra Griner Mikowski NMC Student Nurse Resource Fund to give financial assistance to students facing any hardship that could prevent them from graduating.
Mikowski was part of the NMC associate nursing degree program’s first graduating class in 1963 and spearheads a group of NMC alumni who plan an annual National Nurses Day celebration.
She said she wanted to create the fund to lend a hand to students going through the same program she completed more than 50 years ago. She set a fundraising goal of $5,000 and got to work last year.
The alumni group was still shy of their goal when Mikowski got a call from Anthony Rupard with the NMC Foundation in March.
“I thought I better be sitting down when I call back. Somebody’s funded it to $5,000,” Mikowski said.