Aimee Reyes.

Virginia’s Caring University scholarship helps students in need

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Since 2005, the Virginia Commonwealth University Staff Senate has raised more than $110,000 for the Virginia’s Caring University scholarship through VCU and VCU Health employees’ donations and participation in the annual Marquita Aguilar Walk-a-Thon. A total of 105 students have benefited from this scholarship.

One of those students was Aimee Reyes, a VCU School of Nursing graduate and clinical nurse at VCU Medical Center. Reyes received her first bachelor’s degree in geology from Virginia Tech and went into teaching. After a few years, she decided that was not the career for her. Reyes then held various jobs, inspecting bridges for the Virginia Department of Transportation, as a stay-at-home mom for her two young children, and primary caregiver for her grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s disease.

Nursing was always something she had considered. Her mother, stepmother and mother-in-law — all nurses — kept encouraging her to go back to school. After caring for her grandmother, Reyes realized she had a real passion for taking care of people and started researching nursing programs. Finally, the time was right for her to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.

In May 2010, Reyes was accepted into the School of Nursing’s accelerated Bachelor of Science program, a fast-paced program for those who already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree.

“Those that are accepted into this program are all from very diverse backgrounds because they already have previous college degrees,” said Reyes. “My peers in the cohort were from all walks of life. That’s the beauty of nursing. You can take the skills that you have learned in other jobs and careers and find a way to apply them in nursing.”

You can take the skills that you have learned in other jobs and careers and find a way to apply them in nursing.

As the 18-month program progressed, the expenses of tuition, fees, books, daycare and daily living accumulated. Reyes worked as an extern for perioperative services at VCU Medical Center and held various positions at VCU Massey Cancer Center, while also doing her required clinical rotations, but it still wasn’t quite enough.

“I applied to every scholarship I could find,” said Reyes. “Big or small, they add up. I found out about the Virginia’s Caring University scholarship through the daily TelegRAM and applied right away. It really helped get me through the last semester of the program.”

The hard work paid off. Reyes graduated in December 2011 with a job lined up as a clinical nurse in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at VCU Medical Center. During her five years with the department, she took extra classes and participated in training to become a PRN, or a pain resource nurse, to help improve pain management outcomes for orthopedic surgery patients. Her expertise in pain management made for a natural transition to her next role as a clinical nurse on the VCU Health Hospital Pain Management team, where she has been since January 2017.

The 13th annual Marquita Aguilar Walk-a-Thon will take place on April 5. This year’s theme is “VCU RAMSFIT 4 LIFE, creating scholarships for undergraduate students in need of financial assistance and promoting healthy lifestyles in VCU and our communities.” The event will begin at 11:30 a.m. with check-in and late registration, followed by a welcome address from VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., and warm-up exercises with VCU Recreational Sports and YMCA of Greater Richmond. The walk will begin at 12:30 p.m. and lunch, giveaways by community sponsors and a raffle will follow.

“This event is more than just a fundraiser,” said Marquita Aguilar, operations coordinator, Office of the President, Center for Urban Communities, and founder of the walk-a-thon and scholarship. “It brings the students, faculty, staff and administration together. VCU is a great place to study and work. We really care about our students and want to see them succeed. This is what the walk-a-thon is all about.”

Registration is open to VCU and VCU Health faculty, staff, students, alumni, retired faculty and community supporters. To participate in the Marquita Aguilar Walk-a-Thon, register and donate by visiting

Students may also apply for the Virginia’s Caring University scholarship via the above link. To be considered, students must be juniors or seniors in financial need, with a grade point average of 2.7 or better, who can demonstrate past or current community service. The deadline to apply is May 1.


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