Nina Scholar Profiles

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patrick andrew-AZ “Nina Mason Pulliam is helping me help the families of the Navajo Nation. I am proud to have been a Nina Scholar and am very grateful for the support I received which ultimately brought me to where I am today.”

Elijah Allan teaches middle grade students on the Navajo Nation in an effort to build community and an indigenous nation. “The charter school where I teach, DEAP (Dzil Dit ooi School of Empowerment, Action and Perseverance), is trying to start a movement among our youth to create a system more reflective of the Native community and culture, a more sovereign nation less dependent on the state and federal government,” he says. Elijah is a Teach for America Corp member but his story began as a freshman at ASU when he was accepted into the Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars Passport Program.

“Beyond the financial assistance,” he says, “my coordinators were always there for me to offer moral support, sound advice and assistance in research.”Elijah has degenerative disc disease that makes sitting difficult. “Simply having the option of resting and studying in the coordinators’ offices or the Nina Scholars’ lounge was of immense benefit. I was able to focus on my studies instead of my pain.” He earned a degree in Conservation Biology and Ecology with a minor in American Indian Studies in 2016. “Nina Mason Pulliam is helping me help the families of the Navajo Nation. I am proud to have been a Nina Scholar and am very grateful for the support I received which ultimately brought me to where I am today.”

 

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Ray Cruz-AZ “My Nina Scholar coordinators were always there to provide tutoring and even the smallest things. Their help created a stress-free environment.”

Ray Cruz is a junior at ASU majoring in business communication. He grew up in the foster care system, “bouncing around to quite a few homes in California and Arizona,” yet considering it “the biggest blessing of my life.” He goes on to say, “You’re limited to what you see growing up when you’re in one family. I got to see a variety of ways that families shape their values and priorities so that today, I have a lot of examples in charting my life.” His future has also been molded by his experiences as a Nina Scholar.

In reflecting on the support of his coordinators in the program, “They were always there to provide tutoring and even the smallest things. Their help created a stress-free environment. I could have never afforded college without this program.” Ray has already earned his real estate license and is working toward a degree in business communications from ASU. Given the opportunity to show appreciation to Nina Mason Pulliam, “I’d probably just cry. It’s amazing what one woman who sets out to do something bigger than herself can do. And I get to be among the many she has impacted.”

 

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test-pic.bike “The Nina Scholars mindset of philanthropic giving is engrained in our lives now . . . it’s an invaluable gift.”

Josh Graham graduated summa cum laude from the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI in 2016 with a double major in finance and international studies and minor in economics. He now works commercial real estate with Cushman Wakefield, one of the top three commercial real estate service firms in the world. He learned about the Nina Scholars program during his first semester at Ivy Tech, applied in the spring of 2012 and received acceptance into the program for the fall semester. “Being a Nina Scholar directly contributed to my ability to concentrate on my studies and maintain a 4.0 GPA. I only had to work weekends.

Since it relieved me from the stress of finances, I could focus on my son and schoolwork.” Josh stressed that the impact of his scholarship will be felt for generations. “It assures that my son will be successful. I set examples on how to reach high goals and we followed them together.” Nina Mason Pulliam’s philanthropic spirit and generosity “really helped plant the seed for giving back through community service,” Josh says. “The Nina Scholars mindset of philanthropic giving is engrained in our lives now. You perform projects to help others and you take the lead in those projects. That culture resonates, it’s an invaluable gift.”

 

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sarah_graves.1 ““Thanks to my Nina Scholar coordinator, I was named Most Outstanding First Year Student!”

Trinaty Hobson laughs while remembering the moment she received the acceptance call for the Nina Scholars program. “I screamed in the middle of Dairy Queen with Lord knows how many people waiting on their ice cream!” She was just 17 years old, living under the poverty line with her siblings and her grandmother, who had assumed custody of the children. Trinaty was taking AP classes and working three jobs “to help out around the house.” Becoming a Nina Scholar “made me feel like I could be something other than just another foster kid statistic in today’s society. It has empowered me to go out and reach for things higher than I ever dreamed.”

It also gave Trinaty a support system like she’s never experienced before and guided her toward a career path she could never have imagined. She will graduate from IUPUI in 2019 with plans to become an occupational therapist. “I am beyond excited!” she says. “I’m the first in my family to finish school. I’ll get to tell my grandmother and siblings I’m going to be a health care professional!” And thanks to her Nina Scholar coordinator, “I was named Most Outstanding First Year Student!”

 

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aylssa kistler “My Nina Scholar coordinators were with me every step of the way. Never with judgment or negativity but always with support and guidance.”

Alyssa Kistler has a message for Nina Mason Pulliam, “I want to thank her for the opportunity not only to continue my education but, more importantly, the opportunity to build a support system that literally has been with me through every major life event as an adult.” Alyssa graduated as a Nina Scholar with a bachelor’s degree in social work from IUPUI in 2014 and currently works for the Department of Child Services. She brings plenty of personal experiences to the position and is quick to point out the impact her Nina Scholar coordinators made in her life. “They were with me during very difficult times with family members, estranged siblings, adopting my sister’s child and so much more.

Because of these challenges, I couldn’t participate as fully in all the opportunities afforded the Nina Scholars but they were with me every step of the way. Never with judgment or negativity but always with support and guidance.” Her Nina Scholar coordinators were cherished mentors. “I still have fantastic relationships with both of them. They are remarkable people and blessings in my life. I am so grateful.” Alyssa hopes eventually to open a not-for-profit group home for aging foster youth to help prepare them for independence.

 

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erika leary.scholar.2 “I’m overwhelmed by the blessings I’ve received as a Nina. It hasn’t changed my life, it has made my life.”

Erika Leary was 24, a single mother in her freshman year at Ivy Tech and “feeling intimidated and way behind in life.” When she received a flier in the mail about the Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars program, she was inspired by Nina’s story and felt “the scholarship was meant for someone exactly like me.” She applied and later cried when she received the acceptance call. “I was so happy. I’m a first generation college student. Becoming a Nina Scholar gave me an entire support system … I had tutors, I had counselors, and I wasn’t going to come out of college buried in debt. Truly, this has been the greatest blessing of my life.”

Erika will receive her associate degree in radiology in May 2017. “I beat out 100 applicants for one of the 15 spots in the radiology program,” she says, “and I hope to transfer to IUPUI and earn my bachelor’s degree after I graduate next spring. Then, I will be able to further my children’s lives in such a meaningful way.” She speaks with gratitude as she explains the scholarship provides her with the support of its amazing coordinators, development workshops, meetings with community leaders and entrepreneurs, and a sense of family through its cohorts. “I’m overwhelmed by the blessings I’ve received as a Nina. It hasn’t changed my life, it has made my life.”
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josh ledingham_2015.1
“I am deeply indebted to Nina Mason Pulliam for providing the opportunity for individuals like myself to gain a higher education, to become more of who we were intended to be and to have the ability to give back to others.”

Mark Ledingham has lead, and continues to lead, an extraordinary life. He has triumphed over nine brain surgeries initiated by a malignant tumor that manifested in the most debilitating ways. Through the nightmare, he ultimately had to learn to walk, talk and think again and was left legally blind. This all began in 1977 when he was 13 years old. Four decades later, he enrolled at ASU as a Nina Scholar. “With traumatic brain injury, it was incredibly stressful to learn both the Tempe and downtown campuses. I’ve mastered most of that. Now, my whole life is about studying and absorbing the material.”

His 3.45 GPA, which he predicts will be 4.0 by the end of the semester, reflects volumes about his commitment and convictions. He plans to graduate in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in social work and then pursue a master’s degree. His career goal is to work with children who have special needs. “I am deeply indebted to Nina Mason Pulliam for providing the opportunity for individuals like myself to gain a higher education, to become more of who we were intended to be and to have the ability to give back to others.”

 

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sieara lindley.3 ““They provide a lot of help and connection. It’s easy to feel alone. The Nina Scholar coordinators really want us all to be successful.”

Sieara Lindley has been hearing impaired since infancy but she is quick to note that “it is part of me, it doesn’t define me.” She had an interpreter growing up but by the time she reached high school, she wanted to go it alone. She wanted to let people know that hearing loss doesn’t mean one can’t do what others do. She was involved in sports and cheerleading in high school. At the beginning of her freshman year at IUPUI, she was accepted into the Nina Scholars program. She quit her job and now focuses full-time on her studies. She plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing by 2018 and a master’s degree in occupational therapy by 2020.

For Sieara, the benefits of her scholarship go far beyond the financial assistance. “They provide a lot of help and connection. It’s easy to feel alone. The Nina Scholar coordinators really want us all to be successful.” Sieara calls herself a big “people person.” She chose nursing as her career because she “she loves being able to work with people, to help them. And I have been so blessed to have the heart and help of Nina Mason Pulliam in my life.”

 

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Roger McCoy_small.1 “My coordinators in the Nina Scholars program helped me realize my life story would be a valuable asset to my career.”

Roger McCoy learned the importance of giving back as a Nina Scholar at IUPUI. “This value was prevalent throughout the Legacy Scholars program,” he says, “and it changed my life. It changed the course of my career.” Roger planned to major in electrical engineering and technology but realized as a Nina Scholar that his personal experiences would be of value to youth and families in the foster care system. Roger had been in foster care as a third grader and lived in multiple homes through high school graduation. “Those experiences helped make me who I am today,” he says. “My coordinators in the Nina Scholars program helped me realize my life story would be a valuable asset to my career.

I’ve learned your past or current situations don’t have to confine you. You may use them to your benefit and the benefit of others.” Roger graduated from IUPUI in 2010 with a degree in organizational leadership and supervision. Today, he works for Children’s Bureau, a nonprofit that serves families and children in foster care. He carries a full caseload and has even recruited students to apply to the Legacy Scholar program. “I am grateful to Nina Mason Pulliam for making the importance of giving back so prevalent. Her legacy touches a lot of people, a lot of hearts.”

 

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michael rice.1
“The most exhilarating moment of my life … receiving the call I had been selected a Nina Scholar. It was completely unbelievable.”

Michael Rice describes it as “the most exhilarating moment of my life” … receiving the call he had been selected a Nina Scholar. “It was completely unbelievable.” He was a 26-year-old father of two young children, living with his grandmother and trying to be successful in college. He had a .9 GPA and no educational supports of encouragement. After an initial application rejection, he received a call three days later inviting him to interview for the prestigious scholarship. During their face-to-face discussions, the Nina Scholar selection panel recognized his potential and, in doing so, changed his life. As a Nina Scholar, he served as vice-president of the group’s Leadership Organization.

After an extraordinarily successful college career, he graduated from the Kelley School of Business, one of the top business schools in America, with a 3.47 GPA. Now he is the recruiter and scholarship coordinator at his alma mater and considering pursuing a Ph.D. In recent years, Michael was one of eight chosen to participate in a Community College Summit at the White House and in 2015 was invited to attend the President’s Initiative to Make Community Colleges Free. He currently mentors students at IUPUI and Ivy Tech – a fitting role for one who describes Nina Mason Pulliam as “the most impactful person in my life.”

 

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adrian ruiz-2 “My selection as a Nina Scholar was a scholarship that I had to have . . . to live my dream of giving back with those who had saved my daughter’s life.”

Adrian Ruiz says, “My daughter and her fight for life is why I left behind a career in the military, embraced nursing and wanted most to work at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.” The dedicated father was serving with the Army in Alaska when his oldest daughter was born without kidney function, a cleft lip and cleft palate. Her prognosis at birth was not good; she was in the NICU on a ventilator and dialysis for two months. At Adrian’s request, the Army transferred them to Phoenix for two years for the required treatment and surgeries, the most critical being a kidney transplant in 2008. Adrian gave his daughter the kidney.

In October 2015, at 31 years of age, married with two children and a third on the way, Adrian transitioned out of the military to pursue a nursing career. His selection as a Nina Scholar “was a scholarship that I had to have in order to make a successful transition from military to civilian and student life. To live my dream of giving back with those who had saved my daughter’s life.” He carries 14 credit hours, works as a Patient Care Tech in the NICU at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and will graduate with an associate arts degree in December. He will move on through the final stage of his journey by attending ASU and obtaining his nursing degree.

 

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yulia streltsova “Nina Mason Pulliam was an inspiration to me. After I read her story and learned about the Nina Scholars program, I realized I could dream big about my life in America.”

Yulia Streltsova shares that “Nina Mason Pulliam was an inspiration to me. After I read her story and learned about the Nina Scholars program, I realized I could dream big about my life in America.” Yulia and her five-year-old son moved to the United States from Russia 10 years ago. A single parent, working full-time in property management, Yulia realized there was no potential for her without a college degree. She was accepted as a Nina Scholar in 2011 and earned an associate degree in science from Paradise Valley Community College before transferring to ASU as a Legacy Passport Scholar. She changed her major from biochemisty to chemical engineering, realizing her strengths were in the scientific field.

She interned in Dallas as an engineer with Texas Instruments, one of the top 10 semiconductor companies worldwide, before returning to ASU and graduating in May 2016. Today, Yulia is a packaging engineer for TI and travels to manufacturers in China, Thailand and Taiwan. She and her 15-year-old son live in Dallas where he looks forward to one day earning a degree in business. “Because of Nina Mason Pulliam, I was able to not only improve our lives but to inspire my son and my friends to believe in education and show that hard work and persistence do pay off.”

 

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adrian ruiz-2 “My Nina Scholar coordinators are there to make sure everything is going okay, not just in school but in life as well.”

Hayden Taylor acknowledges were it not for the Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars program, he “wouldn’t have had any of the life-changing opportunities he has experienced.” After his mother passed away, he was under the guardianship of his grandparents. “Going to college would have been nearly impossible,” he says. Hayden is now a junior at ASU majoring in computer information systems. He completed a summer internship in Northern Ireland with Allstate Insurance and will work with them part-time for the next two years.

Upon graduation in 2018, he will hopefully start a full-time position as a product manager with the insurance giant. “The internship opportunity never could have happened without the support offered through the Nina Scholars program. They build you up for success and give you the tools you need to get there” he says. “My Nina Scholar coordinators are there to make sure everything is going okay, not just in school but in life as well.” Taylor also works as a photographer for ASU’s Engineering School, an intriguing opportunity for the young photographer who has been able to shoot internationally because of his summer internship.

 

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renee.w_small.4 “I want to touch people in the world and bring pride to the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Being a Nina Scholar has given me drive. I want to be a success story.”

Tiffany Thornhill had a defining moment in 2014. “I was attending the welcoming meeting with other Nina Scholar recipients and our coordinator told us, ‘you’re all going to get a Ph.D.!’ He said it with such enthusiasm and conviction, I believed him! At that moment, my life changed forever.” She tossed aside her plans to earn an applied science degree for substance abuse counseling, vowing to pursue a bachelor’s degree, and then a master’s, in social work. The 35-year-old single mother of five was a high-school dropout. She earned her GED at 17 and after several very rough years “hit rock bottom” before realizing “there has to be more to life.

I want to help others avoid what I had experienced.” She happened upon the Nina Scholars program at Glendale Community College and was accepted. “Nina Pulliam saved my life. I went from this minor dream of doing one small thing to now having a broad vision to get my bachelor’s degree and even my master’s. I want to touch people in the world and bring pride to the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Being a Nina Scholar has given me drive. I want to be a success story.”

 

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patrick andrew-AZ “I am forever grateful for my scholarship from Nina Mason Pulliam. I want to give back to people the way she has given to me. That’s why I have chosen a career in human services.”

Liz Wilson had a lifelong dream to obtain a college degree but sidelined her education while raising four children. When her marriage ended, she was forced to work two jobs, ultimately living with her family for one year in a homeless shelter. At the encouragement of a family member from Indianapolis, they moved there in 2009. “Chase your dream” advised a co-worker at St. Vincent New Hope. Liz learned about the Nina Scholars program when she applied at Ivy Tech. Though she wasn’t accepted initially, another Scholar dropped out, and Liz received a follow-up call with news that changed her life. It didn’t take long for her to realize “it was not just about the money; it was the inter-connectedness.

Those in the program became like family. We were there for each other, being helpful to one another. The Nina Scholar coordinators and tutors were amazing.” Liz pushed forward and now attends IUPUI planning to graduate in May 2018 with a degree in social work. She loves working at her current position with Wheeler Mission Ministries, a homeless shelter for women and children. As she says, “I am forever grateful for my scholarship from Nina Mason Pulliam. I want to give back to people the way she has given to me. That’s why I have chosen a career in human services.”

 

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patrick andrew-AZ
“Being a Nina Scholar has inspired me to reach high. I want to be like Nina when I grow up. I am in awe and respect of all that she has done for others.”

Daphne Thompson was a freshman at Glendale Community College when she learned about the Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars program. The straight-A, single mother of four was selected a Nina Scholar in Spring 2012. After receiving her degree at GCC, she was accepted into the Passport Program at ASU where she graduated in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Public Services and Policy. “For me, being a Nina Scholar was the support I needed. It helped to have someone to talk with about challenges. While the financial assistance was instrumental, I really fell in love with the program as a whole.” She interned at the National Disability Rights Network in Washington, D.C. during her senior year.

Today, Daphne works at Glendale Community College as she pursues her dream career of research and educating the public on the needs of marginalized citizens. She has been accepted into the four-month “50 Women Can Change the World” program, the first cohort in Arizona for nonprofits and designed for women who want to take their leadership skills to the next level. Daphne was described by organizers as “the kind of emerging leader we need.” She says, “Being a Nina Scholar has inspired me to reach high. I want to be like Nina when I grow up. I am in awe and respect of all that she has done for others.”