The Colorado Council of Black Nurses, Inc. (CCBN), has been awarding scholarships for 45 years to individuals pursuing the nursing profession, with its first scholarship award given in 1974 to encourage Black nurses to attain higher education in nursing. The first scholarship was $100 per year, which was a big deal back then, and the first 2 scholarship recipients were Maxine Johnson and Mary Lou Watson. CCBN’s first scholarship luncheon was held across the street from the Colorado Women’s College (now Johnson and Whales University) at the then University of Denver’s Houston Fine Arts Center (which is now the Denver School of the Arts in Park Hill).
Reflecting the obligations and expectations of the times, over the years the CCBN Scholarship Program has transitioned from assisting basic financial needs of nursing students, progressing in amount from $100 per recipient to $1,000 per recipient, to currently as much as $2,500 per recipient and inclusive of assisting with needs that specifically impact students of color.
Generally known as “the nursing scholarship,” for a brief period, CCBN’s Nursing Scholarship was identified as the ECCBN Nursing Scholarship, acknowledging our national extension as a charter member of the National Black Nurses Association, Inc. In early 2016, CCBN honored founding member Barbara Crenshaw CNS, MSN, BSN, RN and Professor Emeritus Front Range Community College by renaming the CCBN Nursing Scholarship in her name; thus 2016 was the first year CCBN’s nursing scholarship was awarded as the Barbara Tunley Crenshaw Nursing Scholarship to students within their last two years of an ADN or BSN nursing program. Later that same year, the Dr. Bernard F. Gipson Sr. Nurse Science Scholarship, named after one of CCBN’s first Board of Director members, was established to reconnect with CCBN’s roots of recognizing and promoting all levels of nursing, addressing pre-nurse through undergraduate level nursing.
Responding to the financial crisis of elevated tuitions nationwide, in early 2017, spearheaded by then president Elerie Archer MBA, BSN, RN, the Colorado Council of Black Nurses Inc. embraced an opportunity to partner with the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) of the Colorado Department of Higher Education through its Matching Student Scholarship Grant to expand the number of students served through CCBN’s established annual scholarships. A gracious donation from Pfizer gave CCBN the momentum needed to further solidify the COSI Matching Grant whose generous fund matching allocation made it possible to offer $2,500 scholarship awards. CCBN awarded over $16,000 in scholarships during the first 3 years as a COSI Matching Grantee thanks in part to gracious donors, supporters, and CCBN/ECCBN members.
In 2016, through the vision of then Scholarship Chairman Robin Bruce BSN, RN, the Scholarship Committee began its transition from a committee into a bona fide program. Scholarship recipients, identified as CCBN Scholars, were assigned program-specific mentors for the purpose of receiving support services to meet matriculation, graduation, and employment goals. A focus on community involvement and global awareness for the purpose of providing real life nursing experience while improving health care opportunities for underserved populations and providing fresh insight on improvement opportunities for the nursing profession was initiated in 2017. In 2018, CCBN Scholars took more active leadership roles as administrators of individual services-to-the-community projects, laying a foundation for further project development into sustainable programs after graduation and learning higher level skills that prepare the scholars for graduate school. CCBN Scholars have reported utilizing these skills in classes and have credited the community involvement to be a determining factor in being selected for other scholarships.