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Student earns $4,000 NN-CaT scholarship – and some extra help

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Cathy Huntsman is one of the first students in the Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses (RIBN) program, a collaborative effort between Southwestern Community College and Western Carolina.

The 10 monthly stipends of $250 also help a lot.

But after getting accepted into the NN-CaT (Nursing Network-Careers and Technology) program, Southwestern Community College student Cathy Huntsman has found another benefit to be every bit as valuable.

Frequent interactions with Dr. Elaine Slocumb of Western Carolina University’s School of Nursing have opened a lifeline for Huntsman to receive vital support and advice as she works toward her bachelor’s degree through the Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses (RIBN) program – a cooperative effort between SCC and WCU.

“Having someone who’s already gone through the struggles really helps put everything in perspective,” Huntsman said. “She helps me know what to prepare for. I’ve heard it’s very difficult and that you can feel isolated when all you have is your books, but Dr. Slocumb gives me the encouragement I need.”

The NN-Cat Mentoring Program is a collaborative program that provides scholarships, monthly living stipends, and a personal nursing mentor for pre nursing students at Western Carolina University and for RIBN students at Southwestern Community College.

As one of the first students accepted into the new NN-CaT program/grant, Huntsman meets in person with Dr. Slocumb every other week.

The two communicate via telephone, e-mail or text as needed in between those meetings. They discuss everything from Huntsman’s current coursework and the topic of her next paper to what’s going on at home and her plans for the summer.

“Although Cathy and I come from different places on the continuum - I am two generations older than she, and I’m a nurse and nurse educator with decades of experience - we have found common ground in our love of nursing and the pursuit of excellence,” Dr. Slocumb said.

The two meet sometimes at Cherokee Indian Hospital, where Huntsman’s currently employed as a CNA (Certified Nurse’s Aide). Cathy is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.

At Dr. Slocumb’s request, Huntsman took her on a tour of the hospital.

“It was clear that she is valued, loved and respected in her work place,” Dr. Slocumb said. “After becoming an RN, her goal is to give back to the tribe by continuing to work there. She is (and promises to remain to be) an asset to her community.  She has my full respect. 

“Cathy is a mature, thoughtful and bright young woman whom I believe has exactly what it takes to be successful,” Dr. Slocumb added. “She will become an RN … making me, her faculty/school, her family, her community and the profession proud.”

The RIBN program requires that applicants have at least a 3.0, an SAT reading score of 500 or higher and that they’ve completed a Test of Essential Academic Skills exam. Upon selection, students are admitted simultaneously to SCC and WCU.

NN-CaT is coordinated by Dr. Sharon Metcalfe, Program Director and Associate Professor for WCU’s School of Nursing. The program is funded through a million dollar grant from the nursing division of the Health Resources Services Administration to expand the number of qualified, trained minority and Appalachian nursing professionals practicing in Western North Carolina.

RIBN is coordinated statewide by the Foundation for Nursing Excellence with financial support from The Duke Endowment, the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the NC Area Health Education Centers Program.

Through RIBN, Huntsman takes the majority of her coursework at SCC while completing one class per semester online at WCU. She has an advisor at every level while completing her education. She’ll earn an associate’s degree in nursing from SCC, become a registered nurse and spend an additional year as a full-time student at WCU to complete requirements for her bachelor’s in nursing.

For more information about NC-CaT, contact Dr. Metcalfe at 828.227.2893.
For more information about RIBN, contact Linda Deeb – RIBN coordinator at SCC - at 828.339.4367 or l_deeb@southwesterncc.edu.