Philanthropy for higher education scholarships goes beyond helping students complete a degree and enter the workforce. This was the case when the Montgomery County-based Healthcare Initiative Foundation (HIF) awarded a five-year Strategic Sustainability grant to Montgomery College (MC) and the Universities at Shady Grove (USG).

While the goal was to build a diverse healthcare pipeline of professional who would enter the county’s workforce, HIF President and CEO Crystal Carr Townsend wanted to go beyond just awarding scholarships. Townsend also requested that MC and USG provide wrap-around services that enhance recipient’s success both in school and as they enter the workforce, through initiatives such as internships, a Bilingual Mentoring Writing Program, an interdisciplinary Mass Casualty Drill, and the opportunity to earn Qualified Bilingual Staff certification to help medical providers communicate with patients and families whose first language is not English.

Grant funding is helping more than 140 students launch careers in nursing, social work and other health care professions, by supporting them with scholarships and clinical training opportunities as these students pursue their degrees.

“Montgomery County is an extraordinarily diverse community and we need to ensure we have a healthcare delivery system that is reflective of that diversity and meets the needs of those we serve,” said Crystal Carr Townsend, President of the Healthcare Initiative Foundation.  “Montgomery College and the Universities at Shady Grove are answering this call and we are delighted to support them with additional resources to help in educating and preparing the healthcare professionals that are in high demand in Montgomery County.”

Once selected as a HIF scholarship recipient, students continue to receive financial assistance each semester at MC and USG, with the goal that they earn both an associate’s and bachelor’s degree in either nursing, public health, mental health or social work, and then enter the Montgomery County healthcare workforce.

In fact, more than one student has returned to school and this scholarship program after dropping out. For example, Matilda Adu stopped attending Montgomery College after her work hours were reduced leaving her unable to pay rent and utilities. After an MC staff person reached out and learned of her situation, Adu received assistance both from the College and the HIF scholarship that enabled her to resume taking classes the following semester. Now, she is back on track to graduate with her associate’s degree and then transfer to USG to earn her bachelor’s degree in social work.

In just the first three years of the five-year grant, the joint initiative has yielded promising outcomes.

  • 142 MC and USG students have received HIF scholarships;
  • 33 scholarship recipients have graduated from Montgomery College with an associate’s degree;
  • 65 have graduated from the Universities at Shady Grove with a bachelor’s degree;
  • 71 percent of the MC/USG graduates are bilingual; and
  • 32 of these HIF scholars have entered the healthcare and behavioral care workforce, 19 of them working in Montgomery County.

“This program is yielding incredible results and helping to turn out the kinds of well-prepared healthcare professionals that are needed to serve our community,” said Dr. Stewart Edelstein, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs of the University System of Maryland and Executive Director of the Universities at Shady Grove. “We are grateful to the Healthcare Initiative Foundation for their support and for their commitment to student success.”

“Research shows that diversity among healthcare professionals leads to improved access and care for the underserved and, ultimately, better health outcomes,” said Dr. DeRionne Pollard, President of Montgomery College. “At Montgomery College, we are committed to training a workforce that will better serve our community in every way. It’s wonderful to see, alongside our partners from USG, the results of the Healthcare Initiative Foundation’s shared commitment to this mission.”

When this grant partnership concludes in 2021, the Healthcare Initiative Foundation grant program will have exceeded its original targets to enable approximately 120 students to earn associate’s and/or bachelor’s degrees, including at least 60 of whom will have entered Montgomery County’s healthcare workforce.