Nursing students receive Sun Health scholarships

May 23, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau

The scholarship received by Anna Pondela on Thursday was worth $3,000 — but so much more in terms of her satisfaction.

“This means that a dream came true for me,” said Pondela, 43, a single mother of two who is a nursing student at Grand Canyon University’s Banner Boswell Medical Center campus in Sun City.  “I can provide for my family and help people.”


Sun Health Foundation scholarship winners (from left) Anna Pondela, Rachel Bell, Christine Throckmorton, Jeff Miller, Shawna Snyder, Lexi Obrigewitch, Raynie Fike, Mariah White, Josh Ryan and Alicia Steehler.

Pondela and nine other students received scholarships from the Sun Health Foundation, which began the grants more than 30 years ago when Mesa Community College conducted classes at the 21,000-square-foot facility. GCU moved in last August.

“It has been first after first after first for us here,” said Dr. Roni Collazo, who oversees the Sun City program for GCU.

Most of the students who received scholarships Thursday are on track to graduate in December as part of a class of 34. The Banner Boswell program currently has 120 students and three full-time faculty members.

“These students are dynamic,” said Bonnie Olsen, development director for the Sun Health Foundation and one of five members of a committee that decided on the scholarship winners.

“Our committee said, ‘How could we eliminate any of them?’ If you talk to the ones in this group, you’ll find that they are classy, intelligent and have goals for their future.”

Pondela, who is originally from San Diego and lived for 10 years in Hawai’i, initially had a goal of becoming a health teacher. But she was drawn to the career opportunities in nursing, and in the fall she will be part of a Banner Boswell residency program that involves 18 students.

“These people, we’ve stuck together,” she said of her GCU classmates.

Also receiving $3,000 scholarships were Rachel Bell, Jeff Miller, Christine Throckmorton, Shawna Snyder, Lexi Obrigewitch, Raynie Fike, Mariah White, Josh Ryan and Alicia Steehler.

“You have made the right choice for a career,” Dr. Anne McNamara, dean of GCU’s College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, told the students. “You don’t know how God will use you in other people’s lives…. We hear all the time that GCU grads make a difference in the lives of patients and their families. You’ve got people (at GCU) who care about who you are and where you’re going.”

Olsen said she was encouraged by the career prospects of students such as Pondela, who lives in Litchfield Park and enjoys working with the elderly.

“The people of this community are the ones who put up the money (for these scholarships),” Olsen said. “It’s nice to be able to say to them, ‘These are the students who will take care of you.'”

Olsen said the foundation will choose a new set of students each year to receive the grants.

Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].

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