Students took an oath on Tuesday, Jan. 11, as they received their white coats to formally begin their education at the Hunt School of Nursing.
School administrators cloaked 76 nursing students with their white coats at the Medical Sciences Building II on the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso campus. The presentation of the white coats followed a keynote speech by Hunt School of Nursing Dean Stephanie Woods, Ph.D., R.N.
The white coat ceremony is a rite of passage welcoming students into the challenging but rewarding health care field. The most important element of the ceremony is the oath students take to acknowledge and reaffirm their choice to serve patients and deliver compassionate care.
TTUHSC El Paso is the only university in El Paso that holds a white coat ceremony for nursing students. The coats and stethoscopes students received were provided thanks to TTUHSC El Paso’s generous donors and alumni.
During the ceremony, school officials announced a $50,000 gift for nursing scholarships from the Aguilar Family Foundation, a donor-advised fund of the Paso del Norte Community Foundation. The gift was made possible by Richard and Corina Aguilar and their sons, Ricky and Abe. Recipients of the scholarship must be graduates of a high school in El Paso County, with preference for students who graduated from Bel Air High School and Jefferson High School, where Richard and Corina graduated from.
“I wanted to ensure my children were involved in helping us make decisions that give back to the community where we built our businesses and raised our family,” said Richard Aguilar, who had asked his children to share ideas on scholarships they wanted to support.
“Abe expressed he wanted to support nursing scholarships because he sees how much time and care nurses devote to their patients and families,” Richard Aguilar said.
Abe’s son, Santiago, now a healthy 9-year-old, was born with HLHS (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome). He endured three open-heart surgeries within his first few years of life. As a result, Abe and his family spent a great deal of time at a children’s hospital in California. They saw firsthand how dedicated nurses can make a big difference in a patient’s recovery and life.
The Aguilar family felt it was important now more than ever to do all they can to support our community’s future front-line heroes. With the Hunt School of Nursing’s 10-year anniversary, it was perfect timing to establish nursing scholarships that encourage and pave the way for local students to achieve their dreams of serving in health care.
The $50,000 gift will be matched by WestStar Bank’s matching scholarship fund, bringing the total to $100,000.
Jazmin Melendez, who graduated from Del Valle High School in El Paso and attended El Paso Community College, said she didn’t have to look far for inspiration to go into nursing.
“My mom’s a nurse and she inspired me just by seeing her interact with patients. It’s a relationship that’s more than just health care,” Melendez said as she proudly wore her white coat. “She was really happy and proud of me when I got in.”
Melendez, who’s enrolled in the school’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, thinks scholarships like the Aguilar Family Foundation Scholarship are a great way to help students.
“Scholarships like the Aguilar scholarship really help tremendously, especially for lower income students,” Melendez said. “When students have to worry about paying for school, it puts more stress on their shoulders – especially going into nursing school, which is already challenging and rigorous. It is a very meaningful and generous gift to have scholarships like this one available to students like myself. Thank you to the Aguilar family for doing this.”
The Aguilar Family Foundation has partnered with TTUHSC El Paso before, establishing a $50,000 Foster School of Medicine scholarship for local El Paso students during the medical school’s 10th anniversary two years ago.
The Aguilars are the owners of the Montecillo smart urban living community in West El Paso, as well as many other apartments, properties and the Hotel Paso Del Norte.
To date, the Hunt School of Nursing has graduated more than 1,000 students, with a vast majority of those graduates staying in the region. The school of nursing currently has partnerships with every hospital in the El Paso community, which includes both clinical rotation opportunities and job placements post-graduation. In addition, 87% of current students are El Paso natives.
When the Hunt School of Nursing seated its first class in 2011, El Paso County faced a 40% shortage of nurses compared to the national average. Today, as we celebrate 10 years of educating future trusted heroes, the shortage has been reduced to 20%.
The Hunt School of Nursing has contributed greatly to the number of practicing registered nurses in the region. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has produced new shortages. The school’s mission has always been focused on meeting the needs of this region, but in a time of pandemic, its efforts are even more critical.