OASIS Geronotolgy Students Scholarship Program provides scholarships to increase health care workers for aging population

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Two years ago, Friends of OASIS founded a scholarship fund – OASIS Gerontology Students Scholarship Program – not many people know about. It was initiated due to the lack of health care workers for our aging population. According to www.ppic.org, in California alone, there is an expected demand for almost 450,000 new allied healthcare workers through 2024.

To address this deficit – and grow the number of healthcare workers – the Friends of OASIS Scholarship Program has granted more than $70,000 (for 12 different schools) for those students desiring to be credentialed in the gerontology field. The schools involved include CSU Long Beach, CSU Fullerton, Northwestern University, Chapman University and Yale – to name just a few.

“So far we’ve given awards over the last two years to 22 different individuals, and we’re hoping to give another 18 this year,” said Walt Howald, chair of the program and a practicing attorney for 50 years.

Howald has a long history of community service: City of Newport Beach – PB&R Commission, member and chair; Executive Committee, Friends of OASIS; Officer and Board Member, Friends of Newport Beach Animal Shelter (FONBAS); Newport Beach Citizen of the Year, 2021; Foundation Director, Desert Community College and Bakersfield College Foundations; Trustee, Coast Community College District (30 years) which includes OCC, Golden West, Coastline, KOCE TV; and Trustee, CACC and AACC.

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Courtesy of Walt Howald

Walt Howald, chair of the OASIS Geronotology Students Scholarship Program

Friends of OASIS offers scholarships up to $2,500 each school term to obtain a certificate, degree, master’s or certified training in any of the following age-related areas: gerontology, mental health, social services, kinesiology, recreational and cognitive training, caregiving, senior facilities administration and other focuses on helping the older generations with their aging issues.

Friends of OASIS scholarship program is seeking more students who want to pursue their education in the above age-related categories. The application date has been extended to April 15.

Howald is acutely aware of this growing need. “I’ve had some experience with this in my family,” he said. “My mother lived to be 96 years old, and she had caregivers in the last few years. Living in Newport Beach, I like to say that our area is long on aging, long on wealth and short on educated senior care. We don’t have a lot of people available that have the education necessary to really take care of the aging population.”

The first few scholarship applicants were close to home.

“Two years ago, there were two city employees who were working at OASIS, and they were doing some great things,” Howald said. “To work with seniors, you need an attitude that’s kind of special. The first scholarship recipient said she wanted to work on a master’s program, but she didn’t qualify for the city scholarship program. She fell in between the cracks. I thought it was great she was going to do a master’s degree on aging, so, I said, ‘let me see if I can raise some money as I have done for other groups.’ Along with a couple of friends, we started a committee and tried to pull things together.”

Thus, the OASIS Gerontology Students Scholarship Program was born.

There are no requirements for the student scholarships. The scholarship program either sends the money directly to the school (or their program) or if it is, for example for buying books, the funds may not go through the school. In that case, the students submit paid receipts and are reimbursed.

“This money serves as an important ‘gap’ scholarship, since many academic or other scholarships may cover tuition but not cover books or supplies. Or the funds can help with tuition if it’s not fully covered,” Howald said. “We rely strictly on volunteer donors, and we don’t have a big fundraiser. We get donors mostly by word of mouth via school counselors, teachers and prior recipients.

These funds can make all the difference. “Many of the letters we receive from applicants say, ‘I wouldn’t be able to do this without your $2,500. I can’t work and go to school full time,’” Howald said. “We are really proud we are able to fill the gap.”

An excerpt from one of the scholarship recipients:

Hello, Mr. Howald,

“I am incredibly grateful for this award…I want to thank you and your fellow Friends of OASIS Education Awards Committee for thinking of me. Your help is monumental to my future academic and career goals in this field and community which I am eager to be a positive part of!

“I am very honored by this award and looking forward to it providing the funds for enrollment reimbursement so that I can purchase textbooks and school tech necessary for my senior seminar courses. I am excited to report that today I was accepted into my school’s positive psychology research lab by its founder, and will be able to expand on undergrad work at an accelerated and more specialized pace with this awarded opportunity. Being a part of this lab will also offer me more mentorship and guidance for potential graduate programs that are specifically awarded to students that participate and are selected for this program. I hope to keep you up to date on my work should you have any personal inquiry along the way. I am pleased to say your award allows me more class and lab time as well as inspiration to keep up and do great work ahead.”

Thank you again! –Nina

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“We have a wide variety of ages applying for the scholarships, from 18 years old to 57,” Howald said. “The 57-year-old had yet not completed her high school education and worked in nursing facilities for several years. She wanted to go to school to get a credential so she was going part time at Coastline but couldn’t afford the books. Someone suggested that she write me, and she did.”

Some schools are now addressing these fields as possible career choices due to the urgent need, and Friends of OASIS is looking for additional applicants for their scholarship program.

“It’s difficult to get as many applicants as we’d like,” Howald said. “I had two people (not on the committee) look at our application pool last year, both with lots of years of experience and both said that our application pool was the best that they had ever seen.”

So, spread the work about this inspirational scholarship program; the deadline submission date has been extended to April 15.

For the application, click here.

For more information about Friends of OASIS, go to https://friendsofoasis.org/content/About-Us.html.

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