August 6, 2021

RiverWoods Exeter residents established the scholarship to help attract high-achieving students to the aging-care field.

Seven freshman nursing students from Great Bay Community College each recently received $2,000 scholarships, thanks to the continuing financial commitment of the residents at RiverWoods Exeter. Residents there established the scholarship to help attract high-achieving students to the aging-care field.

This year’s recipients are Elizabeth Shaw, Leah Rodgers, Kathleena Meats, Michelle Maynard, Jossalyn Pirelli, April Johnson, and Amanda Cotnoir.

This is the fourth year RiverWoods Exeter has awarded the scholarships, which are based on academic achievement and a personal 500-word essay. In previous years, RiverWoods Exeter awarded four annual scholarships. This year, RiverWoods announced it was increasing the scholarships to five awards. Two anonymous donors enabled RiverWoods to award two additional scholarships for a total of seven and $14,000, said Gina Dickenson, Senior Director of Human Resources.

“The scholarship began as a way to attract people looking for employment to the healthcare industry and specifically to bring awareness to nursing students about opportunities in assisted living and skilled-nursing care,” Dickinson said. “When you are a young nursing student, long-term care might not be top of your mind, but there are a lot of opportunities.”

RiverWoods Exeter offers innovative career paths for nurses, with high staff-to-patient ratios, training, and opportunities for growth, Dickenson said. In addition to Exeter, RiverWoods operates facilities in Manchester and Durham. RiverWoods regularly hires Great Bay nurses, she said.

Dulcinea Kaufman, director and chair of the Department of Nursing at Great Bay, praised the residents of RiverWoods for their commitment to the Great Bay nursing program and its students. “It gives the students the feeling that the community supports them for their decision to pursue a career in nursing and that people in the community want them to do well,” she said. “It makes me feels so gratified and blessed the residents want to do that. It shows they believe in Great Bay students. RiverWoods Exeter has been a great partner of Great Bay.”

The RiverWoods Exeter Nursing Scholarship is open to freshmen nursing students who meet specific criteria, including a minimum GPA, a demonstrated interest in working in the aging service field, and a commitment to community.

Scholarship recipient Leah Rodgers said the award affirms her decision to enter nursing. “It is an honor to receive a scholarship from patients that see the value of our training and education,” she said.

The $2,000 scholarship will pay for a semester of tuition, with a little left over. Most of the students work while studying, so the scholarships make a tangible difference in their lives. “Having any financial help for school is a tremendous blessing,” said Rodgers, a mother of five. “My husband and I work extremely hard to balance homelife, work and school.”

Nursing student April Johnson also said she felt honored to receive the award. “It is a big help for me as I pursue a fulfilling and meaningful career,” she said. “It is a wonderful boost, especially after a very challenging year.”

The nursing program at Great Bay offers an integrated curriculum, with content specifically related to the aging population introduced in the first semester. Many nursing students complete their clinical rotations at RiverWoods, exposing them to career opportunities in the aging-care field. Great Bay has partnered with other agencies in the community that provide care unique to older people.

The college enrolls 48 nursing students each fall. The program boasts a 93-precent pass rate on national exams and near-perfect employment rate among graduates, Kaufman said. “Our students continue to do really well by all measurements,” she said. “There is such a demand for nurses on the Seacoast, 50 percent of our graduating class had a job lined up before graduation.”

For more information about the associate degree nursing program at GBCC and scholarship opportunities, contact Kaufman at [email protected], 603-427-7680 or visit