At St. David’s Foundation, we believe in the power of education to create opportunity for the next generation of health professionals to serve our community. And it is through our St. David’s Neal Kocurek Scholarship that we see the future of our community is bright.
Since 2005, this program has empowered hundreds of graduates from Central Texas high schools to take the next step toward their desired professions and ensure the future of good health in our underserved communities. Created in honor of our late President and CEO, Dr. W. Neal Kocurek, this fund was established to recognize his vision, leadership and commitment to community.
Last week, we were honored to celebrate 57 special recipients of the 2018 St. David’s Neal Kocurek Scholarship. This dynamic group of scholars are recent graduates from 26 high schools, 13 districts, and are attending 12 different universities across the state of Texas with 28 different majors. Moreover, many of our scholars are first generation Americans. Their specific areas of study range Biomedical Engineering and Public Health to Neuroscience and Nursing. Each scholar has his or her own unique story and commitment to supporting the health of their community.
One extraordinary 2017 scholar story is that of 19-year-old Ahrian Albis Ramos. Nineteen-year old Arhian grew up in rural Cuba. Instead of video games, he played outdoors with friends and spent time with his grandparents. That’s where he observed the neighborhood doctor on his rounds. “That inspired me,” he recalls. “There, the doctor doesn’t wait until you get sick to treat you. They make a plan with you about how you can stay healthy instead. Right in your home.”
From a young age, Arhian grew up wanting to be a surgeon. His grandfather encouraged his studies and knew the government would provide medical education for free. But his mother and stepfather sought a better life in the U.S., uprooting the small family when Arhian was eight years old.
“I didn’t forget about being a surgeon,” Arhian recalls, “but I left it behind.” Though both his parents had college degrees from Cuba, his mother worked at a daycare and his stepfather juggled jobs as a mechanic and janitor in the U.S. Yet Arhian excelled in the classroom, mastering English, and also on the baseball field. His high school counselor encouraged him to apply for scholarships. Ahrian found the St. David’s Neal Kocurek Scholarship and applied. Though his application was one of more than 500, his accomplishments in and out of the classroom meant he was a perfect fit for the scholarship program.
A St. David’s Foundation Kocurek Scholar, Arhian is now a Biology major at the University of Texas at Austin, with a long-term goal to be a doctor. In addition to an eight-year, $7,500 per year scholarship to study medicine, he was matched with a mentor in the healthcare field who provides encouragement.
“If I hadn’t gotten this scholarship, maybe I’d be working a low-wage job,” Arhian says. “But I wouldn’t stay stagnant. I’m always trying to improve myself. I get that quality from my grandfather.”