The health and wellness of Central Texas relies on the tireless work of dedicated health care professionals. As we look to the future, and as our region becomes more diverse, it’s essential that we foster the next generation of culturally competent physicians, nurses, dentists, lab technicians, and other professionals across medical services to care for future generations.
And yet, the higher education pathway to a career in health care is too often out of reach for students from low-income households. That’s why the St. David’s Neal Kocurek Scholarship Program is such an important tool for making our region more vibrant, equitable, and healthy.
We created this program in 2005 to honor the vision of the late Dr. Neal Kocurek (1936-2004), the founding CEO of St. David’s Foundation. Dr. Kocurek was a local leader, dedicated mentor, and passionate civic advocate who was deeply invested in addressing the root causes of health inequities in Central Texas. His contributions to the Austin community are many, but this scholarship program is the most indicative of his belief in the transformative power of education.
The cost of a college education has been on an upward trajectory for the last two decades. The unaffordability of higher education, among other factors, can prevent our youth from achieving their educational and professional goals. This scholarship gives deserving students a chance to pursue their dreams.
Beyond the financial assistance, our scholars tell us that the mentorship, mental health resources, and tutoring available through our program have made the biggest difference in helping them succeed. These resources are particularly helpful for those students who are the first in their families to pursue higher education.
The mentors in our program provide guidance and opportunities to our scholars as they navigate their education and subsequent entry into the workforce. A number of these mentors were themselves Neal Kocurek Scholars when they were students. This support is critical to their mentees’ success as they provide access to the kind of real-world experience that helps prepare students for their own professional lives.
The scholarship selection process works like this: students submit their applications by January 6, 2023. An internal review committee narrows down hundreds of applications to determine the top 120. The Neal Kocurek Scholarship Committee reviews those applications and deliberates with their team to determine the finalists. This program, that began with just seven students in 2005, now awards more than 40 life-changing scholarships each year.
Each St. David’s Neal Kocurek scholar receives $7,500 per year for up to eight years of higher education as they pursue their studies. Each scholar is also paired with a professional mentor working in the health care field and receives wraparound services like counseling, legal assistance, and a community of peers to help support their academic journey. We’re especially proud that more than half of our most recent cohort of scholars are the first in their families to attend college. That’s truly transformational.
High school seniors in Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties who plan to attend college in the state of Texas and hope to pursue a career in health care are encouraged to apply. Neal Kocurek Scholars are selected on the basis of both academic merit and financial need.
We invite you to spread the word among your friends and family who are considering college. The scholarship application will remain open until midnight on January 6, 2023. To learn more and apply, visit the scholarship website here.