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Education Assistance Program changes lives

[caption id="attachment_6011" align="alignleft" width="300"] Celia Saiz, center, along with Teresa Scoles, health services director at Wichita Presbyterian Manor and Bruce Shogren, CEO and president of Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America.[/caption]

When Celia Saiz decided to advance her nursing degree to a registered nurse (RN), she knew she wouldn't be able to rely on the same resources that got her through school in the past.

"I had been a 'forever' student. I already had a degree, and you can't do student loans after you have so many credits," Celia said. "I just prayed that the Lord would provide the means."

Celia began working at Wichita Presbyterian Manor in 2013 as an LPN. From the start, she planned to be an RN and get her bachelor of science in nursing, or BSN. But her oldest daughter was also about to start college, and Celia wondered how she was going to afford school for them both.

A co-worker happened to mention the Education Assistance program, which provides scholarships to employees of Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America for accredited educational programs leading to a certification, license or degree. With one year of employment under her belt, Celia qualified. She was thrilled to be receive an award of $1,500. "That helped immensely," she said.

Every spring, employees have the opportunity to apply for these awards. Sarah Oenning, PMMA's senior vice president for development, said that's because a group of private donors had the vision nearly 40 years ago to set up endowments at some PMMA communities for employee education. For the last five years, an average of 31 scholarships have been awarded each year, totaling an annual average of $34,365.

In the fall, PMMA reaches out with a fundraising appeal that brings in about $40,000 a year. The campaign highlights how employees like Celia have benefited from the program. She began her RN program at Butler Community College in the fall of 2014 and graduated last December. This fall she will start on her BSN. Celia works part time in Wichita's PATH rehab now, and she is a medical-surgical nurse at Via Christi.

Celia has been interested in caring for older adults since she lived with her grandparents in high school. Her grandfather had dementia, and a home health nurse helped care for him. "I started interacting with her, and it kind of lit a fire in me," she said. "I wanted to learn more."

She worked for several years in sales, but when the recession hit, Celia decided to return to her interest in nursing. All through her career at Wichita Presbyterian Manor, she received support and encouragement from her supervisor, Teresa Scoles; the executive director; and her coworkers. "I love the management there. Even the coworkers all root for each other to keep going and not give up," she said.

Teresa even gave her a bracelet after she received her RN, engraved with the words, "She believed she could, and she did."

Celia hopes to grow into a management role in senior care, based on the example of those who have guided her. "I want to be that kind of support person for someone else who wants to grow themselves in their education and career."

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