As if pursuing a bachelor's degree in nursing from Johns Hopkins University wasn't daunting enough, Diane Bettick is doing it as a mother of three.
For the past year, the Catonsville family has primarily relied on the salary of Bettick's banker husband of 12 years, Brian, and any available financial assistance from the school.
Bettick, though, said she did not qualify for many of the school scholarships when she was looking because she was pursuing a second bachelor's to go along with the English degree she received years ago from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
"With one income and three children, I really would take anything I could get," said the 39-year-old Catonsville High School grad.
That's when the Central Scholarship Bureau intervened and made it easier for her to finish her second and final year in the nursing program.
The 87-year-old nonprofit organization has given out more than $1 million in scholarships and interest-free loans to Maryland students this year, said program director Roberta Goldman.
"We were founded in the spirit that an education opportunity should not be limited by finance," Goldman said. "Finances should not be a barrier for any student. They should be able to pursue their talents and career."
The bureau received more than 5,000 applications this year and handed out approximately 280 awards, Goldman said.
While the bureau takes into account financial need and other factors, such as the quality of the application, Goldman said about half the students who received an award had a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher.
Bettick first applied to the Central Scholarship Bureau last year and received a $4,000 interest-free loan.
After getting straight A's last year, Bettick said she received a $7,000 interest-free loan this year.
Bettick won't have to start paying back the loans until November 2012, six months after she expects to graduate.
"It's going to help a lot not to have to owe even more than I borrow," Bettick said. "We're just trying to make ends meet until I can get a job as a nurse."
Bettick said she chose to pursue a career in nursing after having her children, Chase, 9, Chaney, 5, and Channon, 3.
Memories of the process and the care she received during the deliveries stayed with her.
"The nurses at the hospital had such an impact on me," Bettick said. "I wanted to give back to people as they were doing for me when I was there."
Bettick is excited to begin her career as a nurse, although she realizes a long school year full of studying and child rearing is a tall order.
Even with that in mind, Bettick said she plans on returning to school in 2014 to become a nurse practitioner with a focus in geriatrics.
When asked if she would apply to the Central Scholarship Bureau to help fund her pursuit of another degree, she said, "Sure. Yeah. Absolutely."
In addition to Bettick, two high school students with a connection to Catonsville received awards from the Central Scholarship Bureau — Catonsville resident Christina Dorsey (Institute of Notre Dame) and Jordan Reth (Mount De Sales Academy).