IMPACT – Scholarship recipients excel, set sights on future nursing goals

23 July 2021

Profile of Alyann Hookim-baker on right with blue rectangle in centre, and profile of Chijindu Okoro on left

Alyann Hookim-baker’s jaw dropped when she found out she had received a Bloomberg Nursing scholarship. Having jumped straight out of her first undergraduate program into nursing school, she had been worried about student loans and finances, but now that stressor had been slightly lessened, and she could focus on what lay ahead.

“I think it is amazing that the Faculty of Nursing and U of T consider different circumstances for students, including their financial needs, and recognizes the hard work that students are putting in to continue their education,” says Hookim-baker.

Chijindu Okoro, another scholarship recipient agrees, “There is a real sense of motivation that comes from receiving that validation that someone thinks you’re worthy of a scholarship,” says Okoro.

Both Okoro and Hookim-baker, are recipients of the Black/African Canadian Nursing Student Scholarship, part of Bloomberg Nursing’s Annual Fund supported by donors. Its aim is to provide financial support to undergraduate nursing students so they can worry less about finances and can focus on achieving their nursing goals.

For Okoro, as he sets his sights on graduating this November, those goals are well on their way to fulfillment. He has lined up a job on his consultation unit as an oncology nurse, an area he became passionate about during his clinical placements.

“I like the emotional aspect, I feel like I can connect with people really easily,” says Okoro. “Being on the oncology unit is a really scary time for people, so to be able to be there and provide that support and encouragement, is a real privilege.”

Okoro was inspired to pursue a nursing degree by his mother, a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) who felt that nursing would be a good fit him. As he has come to the end of the program, he agrees with her. He is proud to have come through the challenges of a global pandemic with access he says, to a new part of his brain, and a wealth of knowledge he is still amazed at having learned in just two years. But there were certainly challenges along the way, including having to navigate online learning.

“It’s a really tough program, and I had enjoyed having that structure of going to class every day, so learning remotely was difficult at first, but I managed to keep doing well, keep my grades up. And now, here we are at the end, so it worked out,” says Okoro.

For Hookim-baker, the pandemic offered her a chance to push through a difficult time in her academic career. At the start of each new school year, Hookim-baker was used to feeling healthy amount of motivation and zeal. But having jumped right into another degree program, she quickly realized she was burnt out.

“Being able to do school from home and be independent in my own learning, was a much-needed break for me,” says Hookim-baker. “It made me ten times stronger and enabled me to excel as a nurse. I’m really grateful for this scholarship as well, I didn’t expect it, and my advice to incoming students would be to make sure you apply for them because you never know what might happen.”

“Nursing is a really hard profession, you have to think on toes on constantly, but there is a relational  aspect that I think applies to every job,” says Hookim-baker. “Every job helps someone, and in nursing, even if our patients don’t get better, through our interactions, we are still a part of making every day better for them.”

To support students like Alyann and Chijindu, you can make a gift to Bloomberg Nursing’s Annual Fund.