Jasmin Blanco Vargas

Jasmin Blanco Vargas is one of more than 500 students at the VCU School of Nursing who have benefited from Joanne and William Conway Nursing Scholarships since 2019. Photo: Tyler Trumbo, MCV Foundation

The Achievable Dream

jasmin blanco vargas
VCU School of Nursing senior Jasmin Blanco Vargas keeps busy during the school year between work, classes and family and is one of the many recipients of this year's Joanne and William Conway Nursing Scholarships. Photo: Tyler Trumbo, MCV Foundation

VCU School of Nursing senior Jasmin Blanco Vargas is a whirlwind of ambition. A first-generation student, she juggles working 30 hours a week in restaurant management, studying for classes, going through her clinical rotations, and somehow fitting in volunteer work twice a month with Collective Corazon, a nonprofit promoting Latinx health equity.

The tenacity she shows in working to become a nurse is inspired by a desire to support her mother, grandmother and three siblings — the youngest of whom is 3 years old. She’s also driven by a realization that much of the health care system in America often fails to notice or understand the needs of the Hispanic community.

“There’s so much more to being Hispanic than just speaking Spanish,” said Vargas, whose grandmother immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. “There are values and culture and religion that are overlooked, and I want to help bridge that gap in understanding for health care providers.”

For Vargas, coming from a single-parent family made university challenging at times. As the eldest daughter she has often worked extra shifts to help build not only her future, but also her siblings’ futures back home in Woodbridge, Va.

“I wanted to be the first in the family to achieve what two generations before me have been trying to achieve,” Vargas said. “I wanted to set an example for my siblings, but I didn’t have the financial resources.”

Now, thanks to a life-changing scholarship at the School of Nursing, she is closer to reaching her dreams with the financial burden of her education alleviated. Joanne and William Conway Nursing Scholarships at the school provide more than $2.5 million each year to support prelicensure students in the traditional or accelerated B.S. programs, RN to B.S. program participants, and doctoral students. For Vargas, the scholarship provides welcome relief from the stress of school finances.

“Instead of working four days a week to help pay for tuition, I can work for extra financial security and groceries, or take a day off if I have a test,” Vargas said. “And that’s a lot less stressful.”

Funding for the program was made possible thanks to a recent $13 million gift to the School of Nursing from philanthropists Joanne and Bill Conway. The Conways made the gift through their Bedford Falls Foundation-DAF. Collectively, they have committed $18.5 million to support scholarships for nursing students at VCU, which has enabled the school to reduce the cost of nursing education for undergraduate and doctoral students for the next five years.

It’s nice to know that there’s someone out there supporting you — that they have your back and care about you to see your progress through to the end.

Jasmin Blanco Vargas, VCU School of Nursing Class of 2024

The scholarship has allowed Vargas the freedom to explore her options as she considers working in community-based nursing and gaining experience before contemplating a master’s degree, but the gift also sends the important signal that there is a group of people eager to support and inspire nursing students on the MCV Campus.

“It’s nice to know that there’s someone out there supporting you — that they have your back and care about you to see your progress through to the end,” Vargas said. “They believe in us and want to drive health care in a better direction.”

If you would like to support student scholarships at the VCU School of Nursing, please contact Pam Lowe, the school’s senior director of development, at 804-827-0020 or plowe@vcu.edu.