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Grant to help Brenau boost Hispanic health care workers
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The Wal-Mart Foundation is giving Brenau University $250,000 to set up a scholarship program for Hispanic women pursuing degrees in health care-related professions, the college announced Wednesday.

The Wal-Mart Nursing and Healthcare Scholars Program will help the university recruit and support Hispanic women in nursing or health-related majors.

Working with families, the program will help with the application process, financial aid and follow-up support to help students succeed academically after they are enrolled.

Brenau University President Ed Schrader said the grant shows that Wal-Mart is "a visionary organization that recognizes and addresses the community’s future needs."

"The Spanish-speaking population in our community is growing rapidly, but the overall population in the region is dramatically underserved by health care professionals," he said.

The scholarship program "will help us provide many more skilled, multilingual health care professionals to serve all the people in this community."

Esther Silver-Parker, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president of diversity relations, said the foundation believes that "many members of the greater Gainesville community and Georgia will reap long-term benefits" from the program.

Brenau, which applied for the grant in July, offers a master’s degree in clinical psychology and a five-year undergraduate and graduate program in occupational therapy.

Its nursing program, offered through the Women’s College and the Evening and Weekend College and Online College, currently leads to bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Brenau, which is next to the Northeast Georgia Medical Center, plans to begin offering a clinical doctorate in nursing, perhaps as early as the fall of 2008.

And a study is under way to determine whether Brenau also should establish a medical school.

Keeta Wilborn, chairwoman of Brenau’s nursing department, said nurses in the community deal constantly with language barriers and cultural mistrust of large institutions, such as hospitals.

"The new scholarship program will help Brenau put more friendly faces and understandable voices in this community," Wilborn said.

Despite the steady flow of Hispanics into Hall, few enroll at Brenau.

According to statistics provided by college spokesman David Morrison, 64 of Brenau’s 2,533 students, or 2.53 percent, are Hispanic, as of Oct. 1.

By contrast, nearly 30 percent of the students in the Hall County school system and about half in the Gainesville city system are Hispanic.

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