Caribbean nurses receive Vernese Weekes Memorial Scholarship

Julissa Suah (2nd from right) receives scholarship award flanked by, (from left) Alexandrine Sampson, Brenda Youmams and Pamela Roberts-Griffin.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Three aspiring Caribbean registered nurses were awarded US$1,000.00 scholarships from the Bronx, Manhattan and Westchester Chapter of the Caribbean American Nurses’ Association, Inc. (CANA) during the group’s 24th Annual Vernese Weekes Scholarship Luncheon, at Eastwood Manor, on Eastchester Road, in the Bronx on Saturday, Oct. 19.

The recipients were Guyanese Ancella DeFreitas, Jamaican Racquel Thompson and Julissa Suah, of Jamaican parentage.

The CANA chapter said the Vernese Weekes Scholarship is named after the late Barbadian-born Registered Nurse Vernese Weekes, who died in 1994 and had “demonstrated a great love and passion for the nursing profession.”

“In remembrance of her dedication and outstanding service to mankind, this memorial scholarship was established in 1995 by the members of the Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester Chapter of CANA, Inc.,” the group said.

It said Weeks was an active member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in the Bronx.

The Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester Chapter said funding for the scholarship comes from its annual fundraising luncheon, and is awarded to undergraduate nursing students who meet certain criteria.

Pamela Roberts-Griffin, Chapter president said, over the past 23 years, the group awarded a total of 55 scholarships and issued numerous awards to “our colleagues and outstanding citizens for their contributions to their community.”

“Scholarship recipients, we are very proud to support your dream to become a registered nurse,” she said. “May God continue to bless you in all your endeavors.”

DeFreitas, a licensed practical nurse (LPN), who is enrolled in the Accelerated Baccalaureate Program at Lehman College, City University of New York (CUNY), told Caribbean Life that she felt “honored and proud to be a recipient of this award.

“I just try to be the best nurse I can be,” she said.

Thompson, who is also a Licensed Practical Nurse and enrolled in the Accelerated Baccalaureate Program at Lehman College, said she was “excited” to receive the scholarship.

“I’m so grateful!” she told Caribbean Life. “This is a wonderful experience.”

Suah, who comes from a family of nurses, said she is looking forward to completing her studies as a registered nurse.

“I feel very grateful and honored and motivated to do my best in nursing school, so I can help others, especially young girls,” she said.

DeFreitas said her first encounter with the field of nursing began when she enrolled in a class to become a nursing assistant, and developed a love and passion for nursing.

She said the experience as a nursing assistant “became the catalyst” for her enrollment in a program to become an LPN after a year of “vigorous training.”

DeFreitas said her passion for the nursing profession grew, as did her knowledge and deeper understanding, that “caring was all about patients.”

She said her reward came from “satisfying the simple needs of patients, in addition to providing nursing care.”

Passionate about learning more about disease, disease processes and methods of prevention, DeFreitas said she enrolled in the Accelerated Baccalaureate Program at Lehman College.

She said she hopes to gain the skills and knowledge to teach her patients, and provide nursing care in “a more holistic, effective, nonjudgmental manner to patients and family members.”

DeFreitas anticipates “building enriching nurse- patient interactions, trustworthy relationships, and ultimately providing holistic care with every patient encounter,” as she advances on her journey on a “fulfilling career path.”

Thompson said she chose a career in nursing because “it gives me the opportunity to mix my professional life with my passion to help others obtain the best quality of life that is possible.

“I strongly believe that if I could help someone as I travel along, then my living will not be in vain,” she said, using a popular adage.

Thompson said she worked for the past 13 years in the Montefiore Outpatient Clinic as an LPN in pediatrics.

“I have had the privilege of participating in several community enhancement collaborative projects, and the knowledge I have acquired also fueled my desire to return to the Accelerated Baccalaureate Nursing Program at Lehman College to continue the educational journey that I started years ago,” she said.

“Through my work and learning experience, I find that there is a dire need to educate our young people about the care of their bodies, minds and souls,” she added. “Young people caught my attention because they are the future adults, employees and potential leaders of the future.”

Suah said her mother, who is a nurse, “inspired and encouraged” her to join the family tradition.

She said she felt grateful that she began her own journey towards becoming a nurse.

Suah said she witnessed her mother’s “demonstration of compassion and sacrifices to care for two children in Jamaica, who were orphaned after their mother was killed.”

She said her mother experienced the impact that caring for these children had on their physical and emotional development.

In addition, Suah said her mother’s her firsthand experience with how depressive states affect all aspects of a person’s life “led to a deep interest in helping young females who are battling depression.”

Suah said she regards nursing as “one of the most selfless professions, in that it allows the opportunity to demonstrate caring to the most vulnerable; and, in so doing, demonstrates that they (nurses) matter.”

She plans to extend her skills and resources to “anyone in need.”

Suah said she is “especially interested in helping young females who are battling depression.”

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