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Program helps ASU students open new possibilities


Daphne Thompson is spending this semester as an intern for the National Disability Rights Network in Washington D.C. Photo courtesy of Daphne Thompson

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November 10, 2015

Daphne Thompson, a mother of four, is currently on pace to obtain her bachelor’s degree in public service and public policy, and is spending this semester in Washington D.C. as an intern with the National Disability Rights Network. Both are experiences she once thought may not have been possible.

Thompson is a Nina Scholar, a program led by Arizona State University’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions, which provides long-term support for individuals who would not normally receive traditional assistance.

“Opportunity,” Thompson stated. “As a single mother, that was one of the most significant things for me, the program gave me an opportunity, and has challenged me to reach farther on my own than I ever have before.”

Through the course of her internship, Thompson has attended meetings on Capitol Hill with nonprofit organizations, has been able to work with the Department of Defense, and has gained a wealth of experience.

Established in 2001, the program is funded by the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, an organization that was established over 50 years ago to help people in need, support animals and nature and to enrich the communities of the greater Phoenix and Indianapolis areas — areas in which its namesake; former journalist, business leader, and humanitarian, Nina Mason Pulliam, once called home.

In addition to ASU, the scholarships are available to students at Maricopa Community Colleges, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and Ivy Tech Community College.

“A lot of the adversities that have affected these students’ lives, tend to, in so many ways, follow them through college,” Nina Scholars program director Jo Ann Martinez said. “This scholarship intends to really provide them with the additional support needed.”

Potential students who meet one of the following criteria: ages 18-25 who were formerly in the foster care system, returning adults (25+ years old) who have one or more dependents in their household looking to return to school, or a college-aged individual with a physical disability, are eligible to enter a cohort and receive the six-year award designed to help them obtain their bachelor’s degree.

Understanding that financial aid is not the only assistance scholars will need, the ASU Nina Mason Pulliam Scholars program also offers an advisory council consisting of faculty, staff, and leaders from the community which help mentor and guide the students throughout the duration of their college tenure.

The program offers workshops and social events that also serve as learning tools that cohort members can use to their advantage. Study abroad trips, as well as internship opportunities are at the students’ fingertips and the program staff highly encourages students seize those opportunities.

Thompson has been chronicling her internship via an internet blog.

“It has shown me that I belong here just as much as anybody,” Thompson said. “It’s helped me in understanding what I am seeing and given me the confidence in my abilities to fit in and do the work.”

“There’s a lot of growth as somebody goes through college, and there’s a lot of trials and tribulations as well,” Martinez reflected. “Getting the satisfaction of seeing these scholars wear that cap and gown is pretty tremendous.”

More information about the Nina Mason Pulliam Scholars program can be found at the program’s website https://publicservice.asu.edu/ninascholars

Written by Christopher Hernandez  

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